Fieldfisher, Kirkland & Ellis and Stephenson Harwood were the big winners at the 2018 Legal Business Awards in front of more than 900 people last night (18 April), as Allen & Overy’s deal star Denise Gibson was recognised as Lawyer of the Year and BT’s Dan Fitz GC of the Year.
Hosted by journalist, writer and television presenter Mariella Frostrup, the ceremony saw Fieldfisher crowned Law Firm of the Year after an impressive 36% revenue growth to £165m in 2016/17 – the largest rise of any law firm in the Legal Business 100 table last year. The firm scooping the most prestigious award of the night underlines the work of managing partner Michael Chissick and senior partner Matthew Lohn in turning around a firm which only in 2012 was near-crisis (as described in our recent cover feature Reversal of Fortunes .
It was a big night for Kirkland too. The world’s highest-grossing firm secured two of the most sought-after awards, Private Equity Team of the Year and US Law Firm of the Year. Matthew Elliott, Neel Sachdev, Steven Lucas, David Holdsworth and Stuart Boyd were joined by recent high-profile lateral hire David Higgins on stage when they picked up their second award.
Stephenson Harwood also picked up two awards on the night – Private Client Team of the Year, and one of the most coveted awards – Corporate Team of the Year – for its role advising Lavendon Group in its takeover by Loxam. A&O’s banking star Denise Gibson, who featured prominently in our cover feature Alphas this year about the leading female deal talent, was crowned Lawyer of the Year.
Meanwhile, Glen Atchison’s decade at the helm of successful West End practice Harbottle & Lewis secured him Management Partner of the Year.
In other practice awards, Norton Rose Fulbright scooped Finance Team of the Year for the pro bono work of the team led by chair-elect Farmida Bi advising the International Committee of the Red Cross on the development of the Humanitarian Impact Bond, a funding mechanism to encourage social investment from the private sector.
On the contentious side, Charles Russell Speechlys was named International Arbitration Team of the Year for Patrick Gearon’s team work in defending a Qatari telecoms provider against a $660m claim brought by a Saudi Arabian multinational. Wedlake Bell won Commercial Litigation Team of the year for advising Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga as he challenged the outcome of the 2017’s presidential election, which brought to Kenya’s Supreme Court annulling the election results.
DLA Piper was named Real Estate Team of the Year for its use of tech in advising Oval Real Estate in its acquisition of the Custard Factory and Fazeley Studios in Birmingham. The team closed the deal just over a month after the terms had been agreed by using automated contract review system Kira.
Two separate awards recognised the growing importance of tech. Legal Innovator of the Year went to F-Lex, a platform that connects firms and in-house lawyers with pre-vetted paralegals. Squire Patton Boggs brought home Legal Technology Team of the Year for developing Global Edge, an app portal providing employment advice across 32 jurisdictions.
In-house lawyers had their chance to shine too. BT’s Dan Fitz was the first winner of the newly-established GC of the Year prize, while Kendra James at the FT won Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year. In-House Team of the Year went to The Carlyle Group. The awards ceremony was preceded by a reception to mark the launch of this year’s GC Powerlist report, featuring the top 50 in-house teams in the country.
Irish leader William Fry scooped International Law Firm of the Year after advising on Linde’s $70bn merger with Praxair, the largest deal in Europe in 2017.
The winners were selected by an external judging panel comprising: Nilema Bhakta-Jones, group legal director of Ascential Group; Kate Cheetham, group general counsel, Lloyds Banking Group; Kirsty Cooper, group general counsel and company secretary, Aviva; Simon Croxford, general counsel – group centre legal, Barclays; Maaike de Bie, general counsel, Royal Mail; Claire Debney, chief of staff and director of legal strategy, Shire; Dan Guildford, general counsel, FT; Rachel Jacobs, group general counsel, Springer Nature; Rosemary Martin, group general counsel and company secretary, Vodafone; Nigel Paterson, general counsel and company secretary, Dixons Carphone; Nayeem Syed, assistant general counsel, Thomson Reuters; Ned Staple, general counsel and company secretary, ZPG; Liz Tanner, director of legal services, SSE; Geoffrey Timms, group general counsel and company secretary, Legal & General; Clare Wardle, general counsel and company secretary, Coca-Cola European Partners. The panel also included Legal Business managing editor Mark McAteer and editor-in-chief Alex Novarese.
Our May edition will include a full report of the night. For more details on the awards, click here .
Legal Business Awards 2018 – The Winners
Hogan Lovells – TMT Team of the Year
Norton Rose Fulbright – Finance Team of the Year
Charles Russell Speechlys – International Arbitration Team of the Year
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang – Restructuring Team of the Year
Wedlake Bell – Commercial Litigation Team of the Year
Stephenson Harwood – Private Client Team of the Year
Eversheds Sutherland – Competition Team of the Year
Pinsent Masons – Energy and Infrastructure Team of the Year
Clifford Chance – Insurance Team of the Year
Stephenson Harwood – Corporate Team of the Year
Kirkland & Ellis – Private Equity Team of the Year
DLA Piper – Real Estate Team of the Year
GQ Employment Law – Boutique Law Firm of the Year
Denise Gibson, Allen & Overy – Lawyer of the Year
Weil, Gotshal & Manges – CSR Programme of the Year
William Fry – International Firm of the Year
Kendra James, Financial Times – Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year
Dan Fitz, BT – GC of the Year
The Carlyle Group – In-House Team of the Year
Glen Atchison, Harbottle Lewis – Management Partner of the Year
Kirkland & Ellis – US Law Firm of the Year
F-Lex – Legal Innovator of the Year
Squire Patton Boggs – Legal Technology Team of the Year
Shoosmiths – National/Regional Law Firm of the Year
Fieldfisher – Law Firm of the Year