Legal Business

European Court of Justice makes landmark Brexit ruling as Fieldfisher prevails in $1.9bn Ukrainian banking dispute

European Court of Justice makes landmark Brexit ruling as Fieldfisher prevails in $1.9bn Ukrainian banking dispute

As a crunch parliamentary vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal looks to be postponed, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled the UK is free to unilaterally revoke its decision to a divorce from the EU.

The landmark ruling means that UK parliament can instruct the government to bring an end to the Brexit process, if it so wishes.

The dispute pitted a batch of Scottish anti-Brexit politicians, namely Andy Wightman, Ross Greer, Alyn Smith, David Martin, Catherine Stihler, and Joanna Cherry against the government, the Council of the EU and the European Commission.

As a result of the ruling, the argument from the two EU institutions that the consent of the other 27 member states would be needed for the UK to revoke its withdrawal was defeated.

Hogan Lovells’ public law partner Charles Brasted commented: ‘In the long-term, practical questions remain as to whether, if the circumstances were to arise, the option for the UK to outstay its welcome is politically realistic. In the more immediate term, confirmation that the UK can still choose to remain in the EU is likely to harden minds, and cause more entrenchment, on both sides of the political divide against the compromises presented by the government’s deal.’

A raft of lawyers were enlisted for the case, with the anti-Brexit politicians represented by Edinburgh firm Balfour + Manson, which instructed Matrix Chambers’ Aidan O’Neill QC as lead counsel. He was supported by Brick Court’s Maya Lester QC, and Joylon Maugham QC’s Good Law Project offered crowdfunding support.

Blackstone Chambers’ Thomas de la Mare QC acted for the government, while London firm Bindmans advised MPs Chris Leslie and Tom Brake who intervened in favour of the anti-Brexit politicians.

Meanwhile, Fieldfisher has successfully represented Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky in a case against the eastern European nation’s largest bank, PrivatBank.

Kolomoisky, and fellow defendant Gennadiy Bogolyubov, had been accused by the bank of defrauding it out of $1.91bn, with PrivatBank subsequently attempting to impose a worldwide freezing injunction (WFO) on them. Both men were the majority shareholders in the bank prior to its nationalisation in Ukraine in December 2016.

In the High Court, Justice Fancourt dismissed the WFO after identifying ‘serious non-disclosure and misrepresentation’ by PrivatBank in its claim. As a result, Justice Fancourt ruled that the maximum possible value of PrivatBank’s claim should be slashed from $1.91bn to just $515m.

Fieldfisher partner Andrew Lafferty, who led on the case, told Legal Business: ‘Our client has always maintained that the bank’s claims were politically motivated and misconceived. The judge has found that at least three quarters of their claim was not arguable at all.

‘As a firm we may have hidden our light under a bushel when it comes to disputes, despite historically working on some big claims. It’s great to have our name associated with such a high-profile dispute.’

PrivatBank was represented by Hogan Lovells, while Bogolyubov was advised by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Legal Business

‘Continues to fly’: Fieldfisher true to form with 26% revenue hike as Chissick gets re-elected

‘Continues to fly’: Fieldfisher true to form with 26% revenue hike as Chissick gets re-elected

Cementing its reputation as one of the UK’s highest-performing firms, Fieldfisher has recorded an above-trend 26% uptick in revenue in its half-year results for 2018/19.

The £97m turnover outstripped the £76.7m for the comparable period, the first half of last year. The revenue figure covers Fieldfisher’s UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Silicon Valley offices. The firm’s Swiss Verein offices in Netherlands, Italy, Spain and China are not included.

A strong showing from Fieldfisher’s German offices was credited as a key driver in the notable revenue increase, with those seeing 60% growth in turnover in the last year.

Also making impressions was the Paris office, which jumped 36% in revenue, while the firm’s new Frankfurt outpost has grown from one partner at the time of its April launch to 4 partners now.

In terms of practice groups, dispute resolution, tech, outsourcing and privacy, finance and corporate were cited by the firm as the highest performing, with each of them delivering more than 37% revenue growth in the six-month period.

Michael Chissick (pictured), Fieldfisher’s managing partner, told Legal Business: ‘It has been a very consistent three-year performance. We have had a strong run in our focused sectors, while GDPR continues to fly for us.’

Chissick says that GDPR has ‘exploded’ in the last year and the firm has benefitted from the rise in cyber security work: ‘We are doing about one cyber security incident per day for our clients. It’s an area of law which barely existed about five years ago, I find that fascinating.’

The H1 results build on similarly pacey full-year financials for 2017/18, which contributed to the firm’s winning Legal Business’ law firm of the year award in April. In June, Fieldfisher announced a sharp 24% rise in global revenue to £207m, accompanied by a healthy 17% jump in profit per equity partner (PEP) to £750,000.

Chissick’s tenure as managing partner has been characterised by fierce global expansion. In September, the firm concluded a much-anticipated tie-up in Spain with local firm JAUSAS, giving Fieldfisher access to offices in Barcelona and Madrid. According to Chissick at the time, it brought an end to the era of European expansion, at least for the time being.

Also this year, Fieldfisher established a low-cost hub in Belfast in conjunction with Donaldson Legal Consulting, to provide document negotiation and legal support from a team largely consisting of paralegals.

Chissick has also been eyeing up a post-Brexit Dublin launch. He said: ‘It’s something we’re looking at for 2019. We have a good track record of delivering on new offices.’

In May, Chissick was re-elected as managing partner for a third consecutive term. He ran unopposed, and will begin his next three-year term on 1 May 2019.

Legal Business

The new El Dorado: Fieldfisher launches in Spain as Latham doubles Madrid team in 12 months

The new El Dorado: Fieldfisher launches in Spain as Latham doubles Madrid team in 12 months

Ignored by much of the global elite until a few years ago, Spain is quickly becoming one of the hottest legal markets in continental Europe, with Latham & Watkins more than doubling its headcount in less than a year while UK challenger firm Fieldfisher delivers on its much anticipated launch.

Fieldfisher managing partner Michael Chissick announced on 25 September that the firm had completed a three-year-long search to combine with 60-lawyer firm JAUSAS.

Legal Business

‘It hasn’t been easy’: Fieldfisher concludes European odyssey with long-awaited Spanish launch

‘It hasn’t been easy’: Fieldfisher concludes European odyssey with long-awaited Spanish launch

Fieldfisher’s recent frenetic push into key European markets has culminated today (25 September) with a much-anticipated tie-up in Spain with local firm JAUSAS.

The combination, which will operate under the firm’s Swiss Verein structure, gives Fieldfisher access to offices in Barcelona and Madrid under the name Fieldfisher JAUSAS, a long-stated ambition of managing partner Michael Chissick.

JAUSAS was formed 52 years ago and comprises of 60 lawyers, 14 of which are partners. It generated €8.4m in turnover during the last financial year, and is led by managing partner Agustín Bou. Key practice areas are corporate, competition, life sciences, dispute resolution, employment and IP. The firm’s corporate team also branches out into investment management and private equity and boasts a China desk serving Chinese investors.

Chissick told Legal Business: ‘I spent years working on this; it hasn’t been easy to find the perfect Spanish partner. Getting them to take the plunge and give up their independence wasn’t easy. They’re the pre-eminent life sciences firm in Spain.’

With the merger slated to go live tomorrow (26 September), it will bring Fieldfisher’s total office count to 24. This comes after a concerted campaign of European expansion: the firm opened offices in both Luxembourg and Frankfurt earlier this year.

Fieldfisher also opened a high-volume hub in Belfast in August, and, more further afield, established its third Chinese office in Guangzhou during the same month.

After a sustained period of expansion, Chissick said it is time for Fieldfisher to cool down: ‘We wanted to be in all the major commercial centres of Europe and we’ve done that now. Now’s the time for integration and bedding down, I wouldn’t expect another major European launch for a while.’

Fieldfisher – named Legal Business Law Firm of the Year in 2018 – has been one of the highest-performing firms in the UK legal market in recent years, and it maintained its form in June by unveiling a 24% uptick in turnover to £207m while profits per equity partner grew by a healthy 17% to £750,000.


Legal Business

International round-up: Fieldfisher opens third China office as Pinsents settles Madrid dispute

International round-up: Fieldfisher opens third China office as Pinsents settles Madrid dispute

Ever-expansive Fieldfisher has bolstered its presence in Asia having opened a third office in China, while Pinsent Masons has settled a dispute with its former Spanish best friend firm over its Madrid outpost.

Fieldfisher’s new office in in Guangzhou, which will focus on corporate, M&A, dispute resolution and IP work, is staffed by a seven-lawyer team from local firm Geenen Law Office.

Three are partners: Zhongran Lian, Kuan Liu and Connie Wong. Lian is a commercial litigation and arbitration specialist, with more than 30 years’ experience in representing both state-owned and private companies. Similarly, Liu is an arbitration and litigation partner with over 20 years’ experience in civil and commercial cases.

Wong has a broad corporate history and has advised a range of clients on both inbound and outbound cross-border investments.

The Guangzhou hub marks Fieldfisher’s third Chinese office, following launches in Beijing in November 2016 and Shanghai in February 2017.

Fieldfisher’s Chinese operation now consists of 14 partners and 21 lawyers as well as paralegals and support staff.

Managing partner of Fieldfisher China, Zhaofeng Zhou, told Legal Business: ‘We are following our clients, we have big clients in the Guangzhou region. Geographically it also has lots of potential due to financial investment from the Chinese government.’

Zhou noted that Guangzhou is one of China’s four first-tier cities with the others being Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. It is the capital of Guangdong province, which has a GDP similar to Spain. The firm considers it home to companies from many of its key sectors, including automotive and biotechnology.

Meanwhile, a wrangle between Pinsents and former Spanish best friend firm Ramón & Cajal has been concluded.

Ramón had initially sued Pinsents after it hired four of its lawyers following failed merger talks in 2016. The UK-based firm had appointed Diego Lozano, Antonio Sánchez Montero, Inmaculada Castelló and Idoya Arteagabeitia, despite Ramón alleging that the hires violated a previously agreed no-hiring provision.

The Spanish firm turned to Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan co-head Richard East to fight its claim, while Pinsents enlisted Ashurt partner James Levy and Blackstone Chambers barrister Thomas Croxford.

A spokesperson for Pinsents said: ‘The parties have settled the litigation and their previous good relations are now restored.  The parties do not intend to comment further.’

Legal Business

‘Not starting from scratch’: Fieldfisher opens high-volume hub in Belfast

‘Not starting from scratch’: Fieldfisher opens high-volume hub in Belfast

Mid-tier pacesetter Fieldfisher has become the latest firm to explore volume legal services, opening a low-cost hub in Belfast to be staffed by 125 people.

The new Northern Irish office will provide document negotiation and legal support from a team largely consisting of paralegals. The venture is being launched in conjunction with Donaldson Legal Consulting (DLC), with which Fieldfisher has had a Belfast tie-up since the end of last year.

Via the DLC combination, Fieldfisher already has a Belfast base for its alternative legal services platform, Condor, which combines document data management and technology solutions with low-cost legal expertise.

DLC founder Alison Donaldson has been appointed managing partner of Fieldfisher Belfast and will be in charge of both the new office and the Condor operations.

Economic development agency Invest Northern Ireland has put forward a £630,000 grant towards the creation of these new jobs. The office currently has around 30 members of staff, with a view to employing some 125 people within the next three years.

Fieldfisher managing partner Michael Chissick (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We are not starting from scratch, we already have 30 people there supporting clients, mainly in the financial sector. We’ve got to remain competitive with other firms who have similar operations.’

The firms Chissick is referring to include Clifford Chance (CC), who in February unveiled a surprise acquisition of Carillion’s pioneering in-house legal arm. The Newcastle-based Carillion Advice Services (CAS) was acquired for an undisclosed sum and consists of around 60 paralegals.

Moving more towards Fieldfisher’s position in the market, Taylor Wessing announced in July that it was opening a low cost centre in Liverpool. The new base is slated to open in September and will launch with an initial team of 11 lawyers and business support staff.

Fieldfisher has been on a robust financial run in recent years, announcing a 24% uptick in revenue earlier this year. The firm’s UK business brought in £135.6m, up on last year’s £110m.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Morrison & Foerster makes City move as Fieldfisher and Reed Smith develop international practices

Revolving doors: Morrison & Foerster makes City move as Fieldfisher and Reed Smith develop international practices

US player Morrison & Foerster emerged as the only firm to make a significant lateral hire in the City last week, while Fieldfisher bolstered its new Luxembourg office and Reed Smith made a triple hire in the Middle East at the expense of Pinsent Masons.

MoFo strengthened its London finance practice with the hire of Benoit Lavigne from Ropes & Gray where he was a partner, focusing primarily on leveraged finance, acquisition finance and special situations lending. The hire is MoFo’s third London office hire of 2018, as the firm strengthened with additions from Clifford Chance and Jones Day earlier this year.

Managing partner for Europe Paul Friedman said: ‘Benoit is highly regarded in finance circles in London, and his cross-border experience will continue to enhance our ability to support our clients with their growing global finance needs.’

Elsewhere in the UK, regional firm Coffin Mew boosted its practice in Thames Valley with the hires of Tim Watkins from Hadef & Partners and Derek Walsh from Thrings. Watkins joins Coffin Mew’s international corporate transactions practice, bringing with him experience in cross border acquisitions and high-profile commercial projects, including the establishment of Abu Dhabi’s national airline, Etihad Airways.

Walsh, meanwhile, will now head up the firm’s agricultural and rural business practice, having previously spent 12 years as an agricultural specialist at Things where he focused on representing farmers and rural businesses on contract disputes.

In Europe, Fieldfisher set about enhancing its Luxembourg offering with two fresh hires to the newly-launched office. Jean-Luc Dascotte has been appointed as a tax partner, joining from Brussels-based tax firm Tiberghien where he acted as managing partner in Luxembourg.

Accompanying Dascotte will be corporate partner Richard Ledain Santiago who joins from Allen & Overy, where he acted for a range of local and international clients in areas of M&A, joint ventures and structured finance. Both hires have been long-expected at Fieldfisher, with local managing partner Ingrid Dubourdieu previously being the only partner at the new office.

Dubourdieu said: ‘This is the latest stage in our rapidly progressing plan to enhance the range and versatility of our Luxembourg office by adding further specialisms. Luxembourg’s tax market has gone through tremendous changes over the last 24 months that affect all corporates and it is our view that further changes flowing from new EU legislation and Brexit will increase opportunities for law firms like Fieldfisher.’

Meanwhile across the border in France, DWF set about establishing a new IP practice with the hire of litigation partner Simon Christiaën from Lazareff Le Bars where he led the IP litigation and dispute resolution department.

Christiaën boasts 25 years of experience in the IP field, with a particular focus on judicial action and arbitration, previously advising on infringement and IP issues for industrial manufacturers and distributors. At DWF, Christiaën will work closely with litigation partner Florence Karila and corporate partner Anne-Sylvie Vassenaix-Paxton.

Meanwhile, Reed Smith completed the international recruitment round, making a triple hire in the Middle East, including two new recruits from Pinsent Masons. Sachin Kerur, Michelle Nelson and Shourav Lahiri all join, as Reed Smith sets about improving its international arbitration and construction and projects sectors in the region.

Kerur had previously been Pinsent Masons’ head of the Middle East region, and will now assume the role of office managing partner for Reed Smith in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, bringing with him experience advising regional governments and the private sector on a series of infrastructure projects across the Middle East and India.

Nelson also joins Reed Smith from Pinsent Masons, where she specialised in international arbitration and high-value infrastructure projects, while Lahiri joins from his own firm in Asia, having also spent time at Pinsent Masons as partner.

Reed Smith managing partner for Europe and the Middle East Tamara Box lauded the hires, saying: ‘Sachin and Michelle are highly regarded in the region, and we are thrilled to have them join us. They have worked closely with Shourav for many years and together this team will be a real boost to our Middle East offering and represents a game-changer in the local legal market.’

Legal Business

Fieldfisher continues European push with Luxembourg and Frankfurt offices

Fieldfisher continues European push with Luxembourg and Frankfurt offices

Legal Business 100 pacesetter Fieldfisher has further extended its European reach with the opening of a new office in Luxembourg, which will be managed by country managing partner Ingrid Dubourdieu who joins from local firm D.Law.

Initially focusing on finance and funds work, the London-headquartered firm expects the office to grow into corporate M&A and international tax, and will complement existing offices in Brussels and Amsterdam.

Legal Business

Another record year for Fieldfisher as ‘more international’ firm breaks £200m barrier

Another record year for Fieldfisher as ‘more international’ firm breaks £200m barrier

Fieldfisher’s leader believes the firm has a ‘very happy partnership’ after cementing its position as the mid-market pace setter with a 24% increase in revenue this year.

The firm turned over £207m globally, largely as a result of organic growth in a 2017/18 financial year less defined by international expansion than previous periods. Profits per equity partner (PEP) also grew by a healthy 17% to £750,000.

In a performance which managing partner Michael Chissick hailed as ‘outstanding’, the UK business brought in £135.6m, up on last year’s £110. The firm was in April named the Law Firm of the Year at the 2018 Legal Business Awards.

The results were certainly a nice birthday present for Chissick, who turned 53 this week, with the firm more than doubling its revenue under his watch over the last five years. The 117% growth from £95m in 2012/13 speaks volumes of his success in reinventing a business which was going through a near-crisis situation when he took on his management role.

‘All of the offices have grown,’ Chissick told Legal Business. ‘We had a very strong year in the tech sector and particularly in GDPR privacy work – we are the go-to firm for that type of work. We had a very strong run in litigation and international arbitration.’

The firm recently added life sciences, which brought in £11.5m, as its fourth area of focus, alongside financial services, energy and natural resources, and technology. Chissick added: ‘Our sector strategy is paying off very well.’

The firm’s alternative legal services platform Condor, which in October last year entered South Africa, also boosted revenue for the firm. Launched in January 2017, the platform combining document data management and technology solutions with low-cost legal expertise turned over more than £2m.

‘We are a very happy partnership,’ said Chissick, who pointed to the firm not losing a single partner over the year, while bringing in a record 22 laterals.

Although the global growth was relatively slower than last year’s record 36%, it came on the back of comparatively subdued international expansion, only opening new offices in Bologna, Amsterdam and Shanghai.

While the UK accounted for 65% of revenue, Germany grew by 46% to £13m, becoming the second largest source of foreign income for the firm after France’s £14m. The Brussels office was third at £11m.

‘We are becoming more international, that’s my message,’ said Chissick. More recently the firm added offices in Frankfurt and Luxembourg and is looking to launch in Madrid and Barcelona.

The firm was more cautious on forecasting future revenue growth, pointing to expectations closer to high single-digit improvements. But Chissick said: ‘We started the year well, there seems to be good activity level. I’m optimistic.’

In other financial results unveiled this month, fellow mid-market high performer Osborne Clarke reported 14% global revenue growth to €273m.

For more on Fieldfisher’s and Osborne Clarke’s reinvention, see Reversal of Fortunes (£).

Legal Business

CMS, Fieldfisher and NRF among firms awarded spots on social housing regulator’s panel amid regime shake-up

CMS, Fieldfisher and NRF among firms awarded spots on social housing regulator’s panel amid regime shake-up

CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang, Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) and Fieldfisher have been appointed to the Regulator of Social Housing’s (RSH) inaugural legal panel.

Trowers & Hamlins, Devonshires and Mills & Reeve will also be in the roster of firms advising the government body, announced today (18 May), for a four-year term.

The RSH started life in January, when the Homes and Communities Agency branched into a development and regulatory entity as the government tried to expedite the delivery of affordable housing.

The new entity, Homes England, will work on the delivery side, while the RSH will assist on commercial law and regulation, as well as a new special administration regime for social housing providers.

Under the new regime, if a registered provider is insolvent the administrator will try to keep its assets for use in the social housing sector.

Fieldfisher and Devonshires will advise specifically on regulatory, corporate and financial law, while CMS and NRF will work on insolvency and special administration law, with the other firms on the panel advising on both.

‘As a firm, we have extensive experience of advising on special administrations and in the social housing sector, and we look forward to deploying this in helping RSH,’ said CMS’ Glen Flannery, member of Restructuring Team of the Year at the latest Legal Business Awards. The firm’s real estate partner Candice Blackwood will also be part of the team advising the RSH.

This is the second panel appointment this week for Fieldfisher, which was among a group of seven firms appointed by Co-Op on Monday (14 May) to work alongside primary advised Allen & Overy.