Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Lawyer of the Year

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Lawyer of the Year

After reviewing the evidence for dozens of candidates, we are delighted to reveal our Lawyer of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.

This award acknowledges a truly exceptional individual contribution to the profession during 2019 by private practitioners, in-house counsel and barristers. Judges were looking for evidence of exceptional performance in any area that makes the chosen lawyer stand out from their peers.


 

 


Sponsored by

Signium

Winner – James Libson, Mishcon de Reya

While managing partner James Libson has played a central role in the dynamic growth of Mishcon de Reya over the last 20 years, his recent work in using the law to counter discrimination in the Labour Party and his role in the Miller prorogation case gave him the edge in this category.

2019 saw him defend high-profile politicians, including Margaret Hodge and Luciana Berger who were the victims of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, as well as representing the Jewish Labour Movement in its referral of the Labour Party to the Equality and Human Rights Commission – a strategy Libson conceived and executed.

Libson has acted for whistleblowers in the health, financial services and political sectors since the legislation was introduced in 1998 and also defended several of the whistleblowers under attack from the Labour Party.

He also led the solicitor team that represented Gina Miller in her case against of the government’s decision to trigger Article 50 without a vote of parliament and more recently was instructed by Miller again in relation to the proroguing of parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to bypass a vote in parliament to achieve a no-deal Brexit.

In this second historic victory, the Supreme Court held: ‘The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.’

Mishcon said Libson’s work was characterised by acting almost always on behalf of clients at the epicentre of hostile, extreme (and often violent in its discourse) attention. Outside the law, Libson is noted for being extremely active in the charity sector, in particular in causes addressing the needs of refugees.

Highly Commended – Tammy Samuel, Stephenson Harwood

Head of the rail sector group and recently promoted to global head of Stephenson Harwood’s finance practice, Samuel combines a market-leading practice for clients such as TfL and the Department of Transport with her role as mentor and spokesperson for gender and sexual orientation diversity within the profession.

As well as balancing her impressive career, Samuel has four children, is an ex-England and Saracens rugby player and coaches and sponsors a girls’ rugby team. Her contribution to promoting women in rail and law, as well as her commitment to wider diversity, is outstanding.

Samuel regularly represents Stephenson Harwood at Aspiring Solicitors events that seek to improve access to the profession and in March 2019 she helped launch the firm’s LGBT+ network by interviewing rugby player and activist Gareth Thomas at a launch event.

Recent mandates include advising TfL on Crossrail and the Department of Transport on a variety of matters. She has also given evidence to the UK House of Commons Transport Select Committee as part of its inquiry into rail infrastructure investment.

Other nominations

Emilie Cole, Irwin Mitchell

Cole represented district judge Claire Gilham in a landmark victory in the Supreme Court, convincing the court that she should be granted the same legal protections as other whistleblowers under her European human rights and securing protection for all UK statutory office holders.

Andrew Lidbetter, Herbert Smith Freehills

Leading HSF’s London public law practice, Lidbetter had an outstanding 2019 during which he handled judicial review, public inquiry and other regulatory work across a range of commercial sectors and pro bono for NGOs. This has resulted in him having three successful judgments intervening for clients at Supreme Court level, including in the parliament prorogation case in September.

Joanne Wicks QC, Wilberforce Chambers

A leading light at the property Bar, in the past 12 months Wicks QC has appeared in the Supreme Court twice (in S Franses v The Cavendish Hotel and Dr Julia Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent) and the Court of Appeal (in Churston Golf Club v Haddock). Furthermore, she appeared in Canary Wharf v European Medicines Agency, one of the most high-profile property cases of 2019.

Legal Business

Revenue growth stalls at Stephenson Harwood as firm remains quiet on profits

Revenue growth stalls at Stephenson Harwood as firm remains quiet on profits

Stephenson Harwood saw revenue growth grind to a halt over the last financial year, the firm’s latest financial results show, while key profit figures are undisclosed.

Revenues remained at £213m over 2019/20, the figure hit last year after a pacey 12% growth. Meanwhile, the firm did not disclose its profit per equity partner figure, which rose 9% to £727,000 last year after two consecutive years of decline. The firm’s net profit figure – which last year stood at £68.2m – was also witheld.  The firm chose not to provide comment or a statement on its muted financial performance.

Litigation and arbitration produced the lion’s share of the turnover, contributing 43% of the figure after a modest rise. Corporate and finance followed, producing 26% and 23% of revenue respectively.

It has been a period of change for Stephenson Harwood, with longstanding chief executive Sharon White giving way to new leader Eifion Morris (pictured), who took the helm last October. Morris takes over an institution much changed from Stephenson Harwood circa 2009. Over the last decade, revenues have grown 150% and the partnership has doubled to approximately 171.

Part of that story has been the expansion of the firm’s corporate practice, which has increased its headcount by more than a third over the five years to 2018/19, while revenue has more than doubled in the same period. However, the firm has been less aggressive than some of its peers in pursuing profitability.

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

For more on Stephenson Harwood, read ‘Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?’ 

Legal Business

Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?

Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?

With longstanding chief executive Sharon White bowing out, Stephenson Harwood can look back on a strong ten years. Thomas Alan assesses its record and prospects

‘My understanding is the Stephenson Harwood of 2002 needed a new strategy because it was doing very badly,’ reflects corporate head Andrew Edge, looking back on the City thoroughbred’s much-publicised problems. ‘It was losing people and the finances were extremely precarious.’

Legal Business

Return to growth for Stephenson Harwood as PEP rises 9% and revenue tops £213m

Return to growth for Stephenson Harwood as PEP rises 9% and revenue tops £213m

Stephenson Harwood’s profit per equity partner (PEP) bounced back from two consecutive years of decline, rising 9% to reach £727,000 as the firm’s top line grew 12% to hit the £213m mark.

The results will come as a welcome improvement on last year’s performance, which saw steady revenue growth of 6% to £189m offset by a disappointing 6% drop in PEP to £664,000.

Sharon White (pictured), chief executive of Stephenson Harwood, told Legal Business: ‘Though PEP dipped for two years, even with that decline it compared favourably with our peer firms. It’s great to see it going up, and that’s because we’ve had a strong year of revenue growth and have come out significantly ahead of budget.’

The results are better still than the firm’s polarized 2017 performance, when revenue grew 11% but PEP tumbled 9%. They also mean Stephenson Harwood has more than doubled its revenue over a ten-year period, while partner headcount has risen from 90 to over 180 since 2008.

The firm, which is looking to see partner headcount hit 200 by 2021, enjoyed its largest partner promotion round in April, with 13 lawyers minted globally, of which eight were in the City. It also made 11 lateral hires over the last financial year.

Despite the robust year, White strikes a cautious note looking forward: ‘There are still concerns around the impact of Brexit but also trade wars between the US and China. We’re more cautious about the year ahead.’

White is set to be replaced on 1 October as chief executive of Stephenson Harwood by the firm’s co-head of intellectual property Eifion Morris. She has been CEO since 2009, leading the firm for over a decade after having her term extended by another two years in March 2017.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Stephenson Harwood IP co-head replaces CEO Sharon White following decade in charge

Stephenson Harwood IP co-head replaces CEO Sharon White following decade in charge

Stephenson Harwood partner Eifion Morris (pictured) has been appointed the firm’s new chief executive (CEO), replacing long-standing incumbent Sharon White.

White has been CEO at the firm since 2009, leading Stephenson Harwood for more than a decade after her term was extended by another two years in March 2017. The London-based Morris currently co-leads the firm’s intellectual property group and has been at the firm since 2008. He takes charge as of 1 October.

Stephenson Harwood senior partner, Roland Foord, commented: ‘Stephenson Harwood is a long-standing and successful firm, and I know that Eifion shares the firm’s values and culture, and has the energy and leadership skills to continue to build our business and ensure its success long into the future.’

Morris commented: ‘To have the opportunity to lead Stephenson Harwood is a great privilege and honour. The strength and success of Stephenson Harwood is testament to the firm’s culture, the quality of our lawyers, and their commitment to understanding and supporting our clients in achieving their ambitions.’

White is a lifer at Stephenson Harwood, having first joined the firm in 1988 as an associate in the corporate practice. White also served as head of corporate between 2007 and 2013.

Morris will take the helm during a period of indifferent financial performance at the firm, with revenue rises not matched by increases to profit per equity partner (PEP). The firm’s last financial results showed a 6% lift in turnover to £189m, however PEP shrunk 6% to £664,000. In the previous year revenue was up 11% but PEP fell by 9%.

Meanwhile, last October the firm hired veteran Singapore-based duo John Simpson and Martin Brown from the struggling Ince & Co. Brown took up his position in November of last year, while, Simpson is set to start 1 May.

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Further losses at Ince as Singapore head leaves for Stephenson Harwood in double exit

Further losses at Ince as Singapore head leaves for Stephenson Harwood in double exit

Partners are departing at a rate of knots from Ince & Co ahead of its proposed Gordon Dadds merger, with a pair of veteran Singapore-based partners the latest set to join Stephenson Harwood.

Making the switch is Ince’s managing partner for the Singapore region, John Simpson, and regional finance team head, Martin Brown. Simpson is set to move on 1 May 2019, while Brown will join on 1 November 2018. Stephenson Harwood has taken three partners from Ince this week.

Simpson specialises in shipping, energy and international trade and acts for a wide range of clients, including multinational metals and petroleum companies. His major mandates at Ince include advising energy company GlobalORE on revisions to the Standard Iron Ore Trading Agreement (SIOTA), and representing a Singaporean shipyard on a dispute worth tens of millions of dollars.

Brown’s departure from Ince follows nearly ten years at the firm. His practice involves advising on cross-border ship finance and off-shore maritime transactional matters.

Martin Green, managing partner of Stephenson Harwood’s Singapore office, commented: ‘With the international shipping industry having been in a state of flux for some time, John’s joining the firm will allow us to further support our clients in the region as they face the evolving challenges. In particular, his vast experience advising on arbitration in Singapore, London, Kuala Lumpur and Indonesia will further bolster our offering to clients.’

The hires follow Stephenson Harwood announcing yesterday (15 October) it had hired Ince’s global insurance head Joe O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe had spent over 27 years at Ince, advising insurance on coverage issues, casualties and disputed claims. London partner Kiran Soar has been selected to replace O’Keeffe as global insurance head.

At Ince, the spate of outgoing partners comes amid surprise merger talks with listed firm Gordon Dadds. In September the two firms confirmed they were in discussions to create the UK’s largest listed law firm, with a combined turnover of around £114m.

Rumours had swirled in recent months that Ince was lining up a merger, particularly after revenue fell 6% to £83.4m in the last financial year. Other setbacks included the stepping down of senior partner Jan Heuvels in August, and the February departure of a four-partner team to sector rival Clyde & Co in Hamburg.

In July, Ince made 25 business services staff and seven fee-earners redundant.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Debevoise next up as Tchenguiz drops Stephenson Harwood after €2bn claim fails

Debevoise next up as Tchenguiz drops Stephenson Harwood after €2bn claim fails

Property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz has replaced longstanding legal adviser Stephenson Harwood with Debevoise & Plimpton after his €2bn claim against an Abu Dhabi investment company was thrown out.

A Debevoise team, led by disputes partner Kevin Lloyd, took over future Tchenguiz mandates, including a key Commercial Court case later this year. Tchenguiz had only drafted in Stephenson Harwood in 2014 to replace Shearman & Sterling in his later-settled case against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Legal Business

Tchenguiz swaps Stephenson Harwood for Debevoise after failed €2bn claim

Tchenguiz swaps Stephenson Harwood for Debevoise after failed €2bn claim

Embattled property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz (pictured) has replaced long-time legal advisers Stephenson Harwood with Debevoise & Plimpton after his €2bn claim against an Abu Dhabi investment company was thrown out.

A Debevoise team led by dispute resolution partner Kevin Lloyd will take over future Tchenguiz mandates, including a key Commercial Court case later this year. Tchenquiz had only drafted in Stephenson Harwood in 2014 to replace Shearman & Sterling in his later-settled case against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The latest switch follows a recent dispute between Tchenguiz’s Luxembourg-based special purpose vehicle Edgeworth Capital and Aabar, an Abu Dhabi investment company. Edgeworth and Aabar had entered into a failed joint venture to buy a €3bn, 400-acre site outside of Madrid, home to the global headquarters of Spanish banking giant Santander.

Aabar attempted to recover around €113m from Edgeworth as a result of the failed investment, but the Tchenguiz-owned company then sued Aabar for €2bn, alleging it was not entitled to make the demand. Justice Popplewell threw out Tchenguiz’s claim last week (29 June), finding ‘it was clear from Mr Tchenguiz’s evidence that he had no genuine recollection of agreeing the terms alleged.’

Notably, Justice Popplewell criticised Tchenguiz’s oral evidence in his judgment, saying: ‘He seemed to take little care in his language or the accuracy of his evidence, often contradicting something he had said previously’. The judge said it could ‘only be categorised as lying.’

Stephenson Harwood had instructed One Essex Court’s Alain Choo Choy QC and Essex Court Chambers’ John Robb to fight the Edgeworth claim. Aabar was represented by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, who instructed One Essex Court’s Sonia Tolaney QC, James MacDonald and Sophie Weber.

The newly-appointed Debevoise team will have little time to prepare as Tchenguiz gears up for a further three-month Commercial Court trial on 1 October. Tchenguiz is pursuing two Grant Thornton partners and Icelandic lawyer Jóhannes Jóhannsson, alleging they misled the SFO into conducting dawn raids on his and his brother Vincent’s properties in 2012. The Tchenguiz brothers reached a £4.5m out-of-court settlement with the SFO in 2014.

The Grant Thornton partners will be represented by Simmons & Simmons, while Jóhannsson will be advised by Travers Smith.

Stephenson Harwood and Debevoise both declined to comment.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Financials 2017/18: Revenue ticks over for Stephenson Harwood but profits dip again

Financials 2017/18: Revenue ticks over for Stephenson Harwood but profits dip again

Stephenson Harwood has recorded a 6% rise in revenues to £189m but suffered a consecutive year of falling profit per equity partner (PEP), down 6% to £664,000.

The results are less polarised than last year, where revenue grew 11% but PEP fell by 9%

Chief executive Sharon White (pictured) described the performance as ‘decent without being standout’, adding: ‘We are pleased that we have continued to grow our revenues. We have had a good run of growth over many years so it’s good to see that continue. Our PEP is down but we were expecting that. We ended up a little ahead of budget actually. It wasn’t a surprise to us or our partners.’

White attributed the declining PEP to both an increase in partnership numbers and long-term investment: ‘It’s about getting a balance between the short-term and what you invest for the future. This year we’ve spent a lot investing for the future’. She added: ‘When I look at the PEP, it will still compare well with peer firms.’

While this year’s results are mixed on a like-for-like basis, Stephenson Harwood has sustained above-trend growth over a five year stretch: In 2012/13 the firm’s turnover was at £112.3m, meaning it has grown by 68% on a five-year view. Over the same period, PEP has grown 47%.

White also said the firm’s corporate, employment and pensions and marine and international trade departments had particularly strong years. Stephenson Harwood won the coveted Corporate Team of the Year accolade at the 2018 Legal Business Awards.

Overall, the result is a positive step towards the firm’s stated ambition to reach a turnover of £200m by the year 2021.

Stephenson Harwood joins Simmons & Simmons and Ashurst in releasing 2017/18 financial results this week. Simmons  recorded a 12% hike in revenues to hit £354m while Ashurst  posted a modest 4% uptick in turnover accompanied by a stronger 11% PEP growth.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

 

Legal Business

The Silk Round: One fine day

The Silk Round: One fine day

Legal Business writes many high-minded pieces focused on the finer analytical points of the legal industry. This is not one of those pieces.

In an intensively people-driven business like the law, there cannot be many more resonant and personal experiences than becoming a Queen’s Counsel (QC). Firstly, there is the trial of the arduous application process and the agonising wait to find if you have secured the favour of peers and the selection panel.