Legal Business

Revolving doors: US & City firms target Simmons & Simmons as Ashurst makes hires

US & City firms saw a steady influx of lateral hires across sectors as Latham & Watkins, Allen & Overy (A&O) and Watson Farley & Williams hired partners from Simmons & Simmons.

US firm Latham hired Simmons’ head of equity capital markets, Chris Horton, as partner in its corporate department. Horton joined Simmons in 2008 and has experience advising on IPOs, secondary offerings and M&A transactions by listed companies, investment banks, and hedge funds.

Co-chair of Lathams’ corporate department Nick Cline commented: ‘Chris has a terrific blend of transactional and regulatory experience that will be of great value to our clients in the UK and globally.’

Global vice-chair of the corporate department David Walker added: ‘Chris’s experience complements and enhances the existing strength of our ECM and corporate practices in London and globally. His arrival will further advance our goal to become the market’s leading firm for complex, cross-border transactions.’

A&O similarly hired from Simmons, bringing in employment partner Vicky Wickremeratne to its London office. Wickremeratne became partner in 2015 and was previously the managing director and senior counsel of Goldman Sachs Asia, based in Hong Kong.

A&O head of London employment Sarah Henchoz told Legal Business: ‘Vicky spent a lot of time in-house before she joined Simmons & Simmons. She’s really good at looking at what the wider objective is rather than looking through a narrow lense and it’s a very unique perspective in many ways.’

Meanwhile, Watson Farley hired capital markets partner Simon Ovenden in London. Ovenden also joins from Simmons, where he was head of the debt capital market group. Ovenden has experience in debt and equity capital markets transactions and advises both underwriters and issuers across capital markets products.

Ovenden told Legal Business: ‘It is a challenging market with intense competition. You have to show clients something that really distinguishes you from the rest of the pack. You can’t be an average player in capital markets.’

‘It wasn’t a difficult sell for me to join. I like the people and I like the vision and the fact that they see capital markets as being part of what they want to offer,’ Ovenden added.

WFW managing partner Chris Lowe told Legal Business: ‘It’s not an easy market to attract high quality talent and I think it’s a testament to the firm and to Simon to have the vision that the platform will be able to deliver on what he does.

Elsewhere, Ashurst hired partner Ruby Hamid to its dispute resolution team in London. Hamid joins from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where she was counsel, and specialises in white-collar crime, financial regulation, global investigations and risk and compliance.

Head of dispute resolution in EMEA Tom Connor told Legal Business: ‘She brings a white collar crime practice and a deep expertise in corporate and financial crime – bribery and corruption work in particular will be a strong focus for Ruby. Ruby’s hire reflects our continuing focus on international investigations, alongside complex commercial litigation and international arbitration work.’

Mishcon de Reya, meanwhile, appointed Ben Brandon to its white collar crime and investigations team. He joins from barrister’s chambers 3 Raymond Buildings, and specialises in extradition and fraud.

Further afield, Ashurst made another hire from Freshfields in the form of Andrew Craig to its corporate practice in Melbourne, Australia. Craig specialises in digital economy and technology and has experience in advising corporate, private equity firms and financial institutions on technology transactions.

Legal Business

HSF and Mishcon enlisted as legal battle over suspension of Parliament intensifies

Sir John Major (pictured) has instructed litigation heavyweight Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) as the former Prime Minister looks to join investment manager Gina Miller in a legal challenge against the suspension of Parliament.

HSF disputes partner Andrew Lidbetter has been enlisted to instruct The Rt Hon Lord Edward Garnier QC and Tom Cleaver of Blackstone Chambers, with the pair representing Major as he looks to get behind the existing claim brought by Miller, rather than initiating separate proceedings.

Meanwhile, Mishcon de Reya partners James Libson and Rob Murray have been instructed by Miller.

In a statement, Major said: ‘I promised that, if the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament in order to prevent members from opposing his Brexit plans, I would seek judicial review of his action. If granted permission to intervene, I intend to seek to assist the Court from the perspective of having served in government as a minister and Prime Minister, and also in Parliament for many years as a member of the House of Commons.’

Murray acted for Miller when Mishcon successfully pursued a claim in the Supreme Court that an Act of Parliament was required to trigger Brexit. However, a separate legal challenge against the proroguing of Parliament supported by 75 MPs failed today (30 August) after a Scottish judge temporarily refused to make an emergency order preventing the suspension.

While Miller’s 2017 claim proved successful, she is expected to face an uphill battle in convincing the courts a proroguing of Parliament is unconstitutional. Miller’s case also faces greater time constraints than in 2017, with judicial review a slow process which will have to be expedited. The time pressure will be all the greater as the side that loses the first review will likely appeal.

For more on the potential constitutional ramifications of Brexit read Legal Business’ analysis Brexit vs Dicey.

Legal Business

PEP stays flat for Mishcon as revenue growth regains momentum

Mishcon de Reya has maintained steady revenue growth in its 2018/19 financial results, increasing its top line by 10% to £177.8m, as profit per equity partner (PEP) remained flat.

While the firm saw a greater revenue growth rate than the 8% uptick last year to £161.3m, PEP has failed to keep pace, with the flat result coming off the back of a 9% dip to £1m last year.

Turnover over the last few years has been relatively muted compared with a blistering 17% hike in 2016/17 and the firm’s pacey five year-growth trajectory of 82% since 2013.

Managing partner Kevin Gold (pictured) noted that the firm continued to grow and to thrive despite disruptive market conditions.

Earlier this month it emerged that Mishcon was considering options for raising capital as a means of funding its ‘ambitious plans’ for growth, including a possible stock market flotation.

Gold commented: ‘It has been reported that we are exploring raising capital. No decisions have yet been made. However we are and will remain committed to providing opportunities for our people to fulfil their potential.’

Mishcon said it plans to expand the business by branching into non-legal areas through the MDR Group. The firm launched MDR Brand Management in September last year, making it the fourth non-legal business within the firm. Gold said the firm aimed to be ‘technologically transformed’ to add value for clients and improve the business.

Legal Business

Spin-offs likely as Mishcon ‘considering all options’ for a capital raise

Mishcon de Reya is considering options for raising capital in a bid to fund its ‘ambitious plans’ for growth, including a possible initial public offering (IPO).

Sky News reported on Saturday (20 July) the firm is looking to either list on the stock exchange or sell a stake to a private equity investor to raise capital.

In a written statement, a spokesperson said: ‘Mishcon de Reya has delivered significant growth over the past 15 years. As a financially robust and dynamic firm we have ambitious plans for the next phase of growth and to achieve this are considering all options for raising capital. No decisions have yet been made.’

The firm has long been rumoured to be looking at options for external capital. It last year reported an 8% increase in revenue to £161.3m  – a relative slowdown for a firm which has grown 82% since 2013 – while profit per equity partner (PEP) dipped 9% to £1m in the last financial year.

That strong five-year growth track would make the firm a strong IPO candidate on the face of it, while the firm is also much more profitable than DWF, the most recent firm to float. Based on its most recent PEP, equity partner headcount and other law firm floats, any flotation could value the firm in the low hundreds of millions of pounds.

One financial adviser, however, believed a more likely scenario would see the firm, which has an alternative business structure licence, spin-off a separate business to raise external funding, rather than floating the main partnership. They suggested Mishcon may potentially want to invest in a litigation fund or a business focusing on its key strengths in private wealth.

‘It’s more difficult to see how the partnership, given it’s a major disputes firm, would position itself as a public company as litigation can lead to lumpier profits,’ they commented. ‘It’s much more likely it is looking to raise some capital, as opposed to an IPO of the whole thing. But [managing partner] Kevin Gold is a very entrepreneurial leader.’

Mishcon has been expanding its non-legal offering, which includes a cyber security consultancy and a private family advisory service, Mayfair Private, which brings together lawyers, accountants, education advisors, property advisers and psychologists. It also has an e-discovery business.

Another adviser said they would be interested in where any capital raise would be invested: ‘It likes to think it’s a bit of a mould breaker, and it’s an interesting firm. It has a good track record under Kevin Gold. If I was an investor I’d take a look at it.’

They added: ‘DWF did its full float, which I thought was slightly difficult timing. I’d hesitate to do anything this year.’

DWF was the sixth UK law firm to float and while by far the biggest, its £366m valuation was below expectations. Four of the firms to IPO recently reported their financial results, with each showing strong revenue growth.

For more on Mishcon’s startling run, read ‘The USP – What is Mishcon’s secret formula?’ (£)

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Quinn Emanuel adds star Covington partner as Ropes & Gray and Mishcon make hires

City firms welcomed a host of new partners over Easter, with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Ropes & Gray and Mishcon de Reya all making key lateral partner hires.

Quinn has reinforced its already robust London competition practice with the hire of Elaine Whiteford (pictured), who joins from Covington & Burling’s City office. Whiteford has substantial pedigree with 15 years’ experience in follow-on damages litigation, cartels and other regulatory investigations.

She arrives when Quinn is making a concerted competition litigation drive: the firm has two big-ticket cases on its books, with partner Boris Bronfentrinker defending truck maker Daimler in a mass cartel case, as well as consumer rights activist Walter Merricks in his claim against MasterCard.

Last week the Court of Appeal set aside a previous Competition Appeal Tribunal judgment, allowing the £14bn MasterCard claim to proceed.

Whiteford commented: ‘Like many other competition lawyers, I have watched with admiration as the competition team at Quinn Emanuel swiftly carved out a market-leading position in competition litigation in London.’

Boris Bronfentrinker, co-head of Quinn’s London competition team, told Legal Business: ‘Elaine has extensive experience from some of the most significant cases in the English courts, and can operate on either the defendant or claimant side which fits the bill of what we need.’

He added: ‘Competition litigation is a primary growth area for the firm globally but also in London. It’s quite staggering how we’ve grown in the five years since I’ve been here, from zero partners to four and nine specialist associates.’

Meanwhile, Ropes has made a major financial regulation play with the appointment of O’Melveny & Myers’ London partner Eve Ellis.

Ellis becomes the 24th partner in Ropes’ London office, bringing with her experience in advising fund and asset managers on fund structuring, the marketing of financial products and the establishment of regulated businesses.

Mike Goetz, co-managing partner of Ropes’ London office, said: ‘Eve’s regulatory experience will be highly valued by our asset management clients, who are increasingly seeking UK and EU regulatory advice relating to AIFMD and MiFID II.’

Ellis’ departure is the third from O’Melveny’s City outpost in less than a month, as the US-bred firm gears up for a potential merger with Allen & Overy. Private equity funds partners Daniel Quinn and Aleksander Bakic swapped O’Melveny for Akin Gump at the end of March.

Finally, Mishcon has launched a new debt advisory service with the hire of real estate partner Omega Poole from Brown Rudnick. She has experience advising on a variety of transactions such as single asset, portfolio, direct or credit investments.

Nick Strutt, who heads up Mishcon’s real estate finance group, commented: ‘She is an impressive individual who will help our clients navigate the market during these unsettled times, advising on the many alternative financing opportunities that are emerging in order to help them secure the best deals possible.’

Legal Business

Disputes round-up: Supreme Court loss for Pfizer as Mishcon’s Levitt QC returns to the Bar

Allen & Overy (A&O) client Pfizer has lost a landmark Supreme Court battle against a host of manufacturers, leaving it vulnerable to substantial financial claims.

In a judgment handed down yesterday (14 November), the Supreme Court upheld lower court decisions that Pfizer’s patent for its pregabalin pain relief product was invalid. Branded as ‘Lyrica’, the pregabalin-based drug is used to treat neuropathic pain as well as generalised anxiety disorder and epilepsy.

The patent was ruled invalid because it did not support the use of neuropathic pain, meaning that generic manufacturers such as Actavis (now called Allergan) and Mylan, who were respondents in the case, will now be able to produce their own pregabalin products.

The NHS also now has the right to claim against Pfizer, after incurring unnecessary extra costs for using the more expensive Lyrica brand rather than a cheaper alternative.

Linklaters IP partner Yohan Liyanage told Legal Business: ‘Secondary medical use patents such as these are very important for pharmaceutical companies, and the judgment indicated that the threshold for obtaining them is higher than previously thought. The decision makes it harder for innovative pharmaceutical companies to enforce the patents, so the NHS and generics are the real winners.’

Mylan was represented by Taylor Wessing in the dispute, led by partner Matthew Royle, while Actavis was advised by Powell Gilbert.

Meanwhile, Mishcon de Reya partner and white collar crime head Alison Levitt QC has announced she is leaving to join criminal defence set 2 Hare Court later this month.

Levitt QC, who took silk in 2008, founded Mishcon’s white collar crime team in 2014, and during her time at the firm conducted many murder trials.

Mishcon partner Jo Rickards, who joined the firm in January 2017, will now lead the white collar crime practice.

Levitt QC told Legal Business: ‘Mishcon is an incredibly hard place to leave. The firm has wonderful people and a really exciting environment. But I needed to go back to being an advocate, which was not possible here.’

She added: ‘Jo Rickards is a natural leader and a great colleague, she is going to take the white collar team to the next level.’

Finally, City outfit Edwin Coe has become the latest firm to launch a group action claim on behalf of truck owners who were victims of a price-fixing cartel.

In July 2016, the European Commission (EC) found truck manufacturers MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF had operated a 14-year price-fixing cartel. As a result, the EC fined the cartelists a record-breaking €2.93bn, aside from MAN, which under EU leniency rules received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartel.

Edwin Coe is now urging businesses who purchased a truck between 1997 and 2012 to join its group action, which is being funded by litigation financier Affiniti Finance. The funding means that clients can opt-in under a ‘no-win, no fee’ arrangement.

In July last year, competition boutique Hausfeld partnered with litigation funder Burford Capital to finance UK claimants who wanted to pursue follow-on damages claims as a result of the cartel.

Legal Business

Blistering run comes to an end for Mishcon as PEP falls and revenue growth slows

In what has been a strong reporting year already for a number of mid-market pacesetters, it is perhaps surprising to find that the frenetic growth of recent years at Mishcon de Reya has finally slowed.

The firm’s 8% top-line growth to £161.3m remains strong but is slower than last year’s 17% hike to £149.4m and resulted in a 9% dip in profit per equity partner (PEP) to £1m.

It means the firm has added around £10m to its top line this time around compared to £22m last year, when PEP rose by 10% to £1.1m.

However, managing partner Kevin Gold said it was ‘very heartening’ to see ‘this level of growth across the firm in such challenging and unpredictable market conditions’.

‘I am proud that in the past year we have not only welcomed many new and talented people into the firm but that our senior equity partnership has also grown,’ added Gold, although the firm would not confirm changes to senior equity partner headcount.

Headline hires over the year included Addleshaw Goddard corporate partner Tim Field  and disputes stalwart Ben Giaretta from Ashurst.

Gold also pointed to the expansion of the firm’s non-legal offering. Mishcon expanded its cyber security consultancy service  and its private family advisory service Mayfair Private, which brings together lawyers, accountants, education advisors, property advisors and psychologists.

‘We have made great strides in delivering against our ten-year vision in the past year, working alongside data experts and legal engineers to further our technological transformation and developing our non-legal offerings for our clients,’ added Gold.

This year’s results mean the firm has hiked its top line by 82% since 2012/13, when it stood at £88.4m, one of the most impressive results among the UK’s top 100. Its growth this year, however, compares unfavourably with some upcoming City players including Fieldfisher, which hiked its top line 24% to £207m, and Osborne Clarke, which grew 14% to €273m.

For more on Mishcon’s recent success, see ‘The USP’ (£) 

Legal Business

The wheat from the chaff – Hustling start-ups meet City law

In a quiet east London street off the bustling Brick Lane, a few doors from a sign tagged ‘Vegan Hair Salon’ is a co-working space. You meet Gaz, the office’s bulldog, and work among Star Wars figurines, gaming consoles and an electric drum kit.

It has blackboard walls and is suspiciously empty on a Friday afternoon given the barbecue outside. Equidistant from the corporate hub at Liverpool Street and the ‘scene’ of Shoreditch High Street, music plays.

Legal Business

Disputes round-up: Rosenblatt listing eyes third-party funding expansion as trio of firms collaborate on new litigation tech

London disputes specialist Rosenblatt is trying something new with its planned launch of a litigation funder, while three law firms have also highlighted their innovation wares by collaborating with a litigation start-up.

Rosenblatt this week (8 May) raised £43m in its listing on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), giving the 21-partner firm a market capitalisation of £76m in what it described as a ‘significantly oversubscribed’ float. It was the fourth and biggest law firm initial public offering (IPO) to date.

Rosenblatt chief executive Nicola Foulston told Legal Business: ‘We have raised funds to fund our own lawyers. We are not currently operating as a third-party funder like Burford, but if someone says they have a case and they want our resources, we can take risks because we can afford to.’

Foulston added the firm ‘would be opening a third-party funder in the next couple of years’, however, and said ‘it would be a separate entity with a very strong steel wall between it and the firm’.

Foulston also argued the firm’s chief executive model, notably with a lack of senior partner, would be a key strategic boost going forward: ‘I am completely stunned that the sector is still dominated by those [senior partners], who are of course exceptional lawyers, but it makes them think they are capable of doing the job I do.’

‘The main benefit of our model is motivating and attracting talent. It moves the model away from a core base of equity partners who make decisions impacting their earnings, instead I make those decisions and the partners are rewarded. Everyone benefits from it.’

Foulston joined Rosenblatt as chief executive in 2016, specifically to oversee the firm’s journey to an IPO. She previously acted as chief executive of motor sport company Brands Hatch, joining in 1990 and managing the business’ 1996 listing on the London Stock Exchange. In 1999, Foulston was in charge as Brands Hatch was sold for $195m to US marketing giant Interpublic.

The firm is backed by respectable recent revenue growth. In the last financial year to 31 December 2017, Roseblatt recorded a 3% rise in revenue to £15.9m, while EBITDA grew by 28% to £5.5m.

Foulston says that while the firm is open to branching out into other areas, it remains focused on litigation work. The firm recently acted for Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell in the high-profile £127m sale of its newspaper business to Trinity Mirror, marking the end of Desmond’s 43-year-long publishing career.

Rosenblatt’s share price rose to 111p just after the market opened, but stood at 105p early Thursday (10 May).

The firm’s listing follow Gateley’s pioneering 2015 float, which raised £30m, and the listings of Gordon Dadds and Keystone Law, who last year raised £20m and £15m respectively.

In other disputes news, Mishcon de Reya, Baker McKenzie and Taylor Wessing have teamed up with LitiGate, a Tel Aviv-based legal tech start-up.

LitiGate, founded by ex-litigator Nimrod Aharon and AI practitioner Guy Uziel, uses machine learning algorithms to review arguments and suggest counter arguments and fall-backs. The technology is able to rely on a database of previous case law to recommend the optimum argument.

The start-up was one of five companies selected this week to feature in Mishcon’s incubation programme, MDR LAB. Nick West, Mishcon’s chief technology officer who oversees the programme, said the firm would ‘eagerly anticipate getting to know them, to understand what their technology can do and to help them perfect their product’.

All three firms will be providing their resources to further boost LitiGate’s development. Taylor Wessing partner Laurence Lieberman commented: ‘We are constantly looking for innovative solutions that will maximise efficiency to ensure the best outcomes for our clients, and reduce the overall cost of litigation.’

Mishcon’s MDR LAB, which ran for the first time last year, invites legal start-ups to work with the firm’s lawyers over a 10-week period during the summer.

Legal Business

Acceleration: Mishcon de Reya aims to bring ‘propositions to life’ in second MDR LAB cohort

Mishcon de Reya has announced the second cohort of companies joining the firm’s incubation programme in London in the latest of a string of moves in the legal tech space.

The five new companies range from concept-stage to revenue generating, and will join the firm’s technology incubator programme over a 10-week period from today (8 May). ThirdFort, DealWIP, LitiGate, Digitory Legal and LawPanel were all selected following a pitch day at the firm’s London headquarters on 21 March, where a total of 16 companies presented their products and ideas.

ThirdFort was founded in September last year and is a property transaction product at the development stage; DealWIP was founded last June and has a user-stage product providing a platform for transactional lawyers; LitiGate is an AI tool for dispute resolution; Digitory Legal is a pricing prediction and management tool for litigators founded in 2016; and LawPanel, also founded in 2016, is an online trademark management platform.

Two of the companies are based in the UK, two in the US and one in Israel. The second cohort reflects a commitment to early stage start-ups, with lower-profile names making up the group.

MDR’s Chief Technology Officer and Direct of MDR LAB Nick West (pictured) commented: ‘The first year of MDR LAB really exceeded our expectations – as our ongoing relationships and investments in the 2017 cohort illustrate. We genuinely enjoy working with these early stage legal tech start-ups to help them bring their propositions to life.’

West told Legal Business the LAB’s focus was on early stage companies: ‘We want to go with companies right at the start of their journey. We go and get hold of interesting, early-stage technology and we will help them create a product we want to use.’

He added: ‘We’re always looking for a company trying to solve a real problem, and we recognise the pain points they want to solve. We want people with an interesting story and a good team that can work with us, and that’s what these companies have.’

The move follows banking giant Barclays announcing a legal tech iteration of its Eagle Labs initiative, while Allen & Overy revealed a shift in emphasis with a list featuring more well-established start-ups in its second cohort last month.

MRD LAB’s 10-week programme offers a more intensive approach to rival incubators as participants gain close proximity to the law firm’s experts and clients. MDR LAB was first launched in 2017, with Everchron, Orbital Witness, PING SaltDNA, Surukam analytics and making up the round. MDR has since invested six-figure sums in Ping and Everchron.

‘We’ve found this collaborative approach has accelerated the development of some incredible products and we’re proud of what all of the 2017 cohort have achieved’ West added.