Legal Business

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.

Legal Business

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

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.

Legal Business

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.


Legal Business

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.

Legal Business

Fieldfisher, Kirkland and Stephenson Harwood the major winners at 2018 Legal Business Awards

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

Legal Business

Latham and SH cheer as latest silk round bountiful for Red Lion and Garden Court

Arbitrators dominate solicitor appointments amid creation of 119 new silks as Latham does double

Red Lion Chambers and Garden Court Chambers saw six and five of their respective barristers take silk in this year’s QC appointments round, while the number of successful solicitors becoming QCs dipped from last year.

Legal Business

HSF’s qualifying trainee retention rate falls as Stephenson Harwood keeps 90% of intake

Herbert Smith Freehills‘ (HSF) qualified trainee retention score has dipped to 80% while City-headquartered firm Stephenson Harwood recorded a significant increase in its autumn 2017 trainee retention rates for this autumn.

At the same time last year, in contrast, HSF retained 94% of its autumn qualifying trainees.

The firm offered 28 out of 35 final-year trainees a qualified role this autumn, which all 28 accepted. Four of those NQs will be based overseas, two in Paris, one in Singapore and one in Dubai.

HSF training principal and dispute resolution partner James Baily said: ‘We are very pleased that four of our London trainees in this round are qualifying into overseas offices, which demonstrates the global opportunities that are available for our trainee solicitors.

Meanwhile, nine out of City-headquartered firm Stephenson Harwood’s ten (90%) qualifying trainees have been offered and accepted positions at its London office, marking an improvement over last autumn when 77% of trainees were retained.

The shipping and insurance-focused international firm said newly-qualified lawyers (NQs) will take up roles in the firm’s corporate, marine and international trade, commercial litigation and finance practices.

Stephenson Harwood finance partner and trainee principal Neil Noble told Legal Business that the increased retention was due to demand: ‘We have to look at which practice areas of the business were in need of recruitment. Luckily there was widespread demand across the firm so we had spaces for everyone.’

Noble also stated that commercial litigation was the main practice area at the firm that was in need of added depth.

Stephenson Harwood posted a mixed financial year, with revenues up 11% to £176m but profit per equity partner falling 9% to £708,000. HSF similarly reported unusual results 2016/17, as its revenue grew also by 11% to £920.5m but profit per equity partner fell 3% to £760,000.

In comparison, autumn trainee retention rates at Trowers & Hamlinswere 70%, while Withers kept 73% of its final-year group.

Legal Business

Financials 2016/17: Stephenson Harwood revenues climb 11% as PEP falls 9%

Stephenson Harwood has posted another year of growth with revenues up 11% to £176m. The firm, however, saw a drop of 9% in its profits per equity partner (PEP), the number dipping to £708,000, partly due to the effect of the Brexit vote last June. 

The firm’s revenues jumped by £18,000 this financial year from last year’s £158m figure, a 9% increase on the previous year. PEP also grew during the 2015/16 financial year by 1% to £774,000, an £11,000 leap.

In 2014/15 firm, the firm’s revenues increased by an impressive 20%. Although those figures were boosted by fees from several multi-year matters, the firm said that even discounting those payments it still achieved an underlying 16% growth rate.

Discussing the firm’s revenues current increase, Stephenson Harwood chief executive Sharon White (pictured) told Legal Business : ‘We were all shocked by the Brexit result and it did certainly impact on our transactional teams, particularly real estate and corporate.’

‘In the autumn we saw some of those deals come back on track as well as new activity. We’ve ended up having strong performances in all of our practice groups and all of our offices,’ she said.

On the firm’s small fall in PEP, White said they were ‘expecting [the drop], and as much as anything it’s about balancing the investment we need for the longer term health and growth of the firm against the short term.’

The firm has invested over the last five years, when it grew 50% in revenue terms. ‘Our PEP figure this year is still strong and compares well to our peer firms,’ White said. 

‘If you look at our PEP figures over the last few years in 2013/14 we were just over the $500,000 mark. We had big leaps up in the coming two financial years. We always regarded those fabulous years with the knowledge that we may not be able to sustain quite so heavy heights,’ she added.

The firm recruited three King & Wood Mallesons partners in the wake of its European collapse earlier this year, including former UK private equity co-head Jonathan Pittal.

Private equity partners Warren Allan and Gabriel Boghossian also joined the firm, bringing experience advising clients such as Bowmark Capital, Lloyds Banking Group, Unicredit Bank AG, Risk Capital Partners, Core Capital, SL Capital Partners, Pantheon Ventures, Lexington Capital Partners, Temasek, Goldman Sachs Vintage Fund, Oak Hill Capital Partners and Unigestion SA.

Separately, three lawyers were promoted to partner in the firm’s reduced promotion round this year, including commercial litigation lawyers Donna Newman, Sophie Schultz and finance lawyer George Vaughton in the firm’s London office.

Stephenson Harwood also made up one local finance partner, Elton Chan, to the firm’s Hong Kong office. Its largest ever nine partner intake took place in 2016.

This March, the firm also re-appointed its management team. Stephenson Harwood’s supervisory council extended White’s existing term for a further two years, her original three-year term was due to expire this September.

Senior partner Roland Foord was elected for a second term. He will continue in the role for a further three years, reduced from the previous five-year term.

Legal Business

Stephenson Harwood promotes three in reduced round as TLT introduces eight new partners

Stephenson Harwood has promoted three to partner in a reduced round following last year’s largest ever nine partner intake, while TLT has increased its promotions with six making partner.

Alongside the three, the firm has also made up one to local partner. Commercial litigation lawyers Donna Newman, Sophie Schultz and finance lawyer George Vaughton have been promoted in the firm’s London office while finance lawyer Elton Chan will become a local partner in the firm’s Hong Kong office.

In 2016 Stephenson Harwood promoted nine lawyers across its London, Paris, Hong Kong, Piraeus and Dubai offices, with three finance partners and two corporate partners making up five of the nine promotions. The firm also appointed two marine and international trade local partners in their Hong Kong office. In 2015 the firm had promoted five, all in London.

Meanwhile, TLT has promoted seven associates and one legal director to partner. Litigation lawyer Matthew Forrest, employment lawyer Siobhan Fitzgerald, commercial lawyers Dan Read and Patrick Sweeney, real estate lawyers Matthew Grimwood and Patrick Sheehan, corporate lawyer Antonia Silvestri and commercial dispute resolution lawyer Victoria Mabbett will all become partners on 1 May.

Five of TLT’s promotions are based in the firm’s Bristol office with two in Manchester and one in London. The firm has also promoted four real estate associates to legal director.

Senior partner Andrew Glynn said: ‘This is our largest round of promotions in a number of years, signifying the growth of the firm across the UK. We attribute that growth to the dedication and hard work of our people, and are pleased to be able to recognise and reward it. It is also notable that an increasing number of those promoted have flexible working arrangements, and the firm continues to explore these and other methods of retaining talent within the business.’

TLT made up six lawyers to partner last year, bringing the firm’s total partner headcount to over 100 for the first time. The promotions were in the firm’s commercial services, and banking and lender services groups, with lawyers based in Belfast, Bristol, London and Manchester.

Promotions in full:

Stephenson Harwood

Donna Newman, commercial litigation, London

Sophie Schultz, commercial litigation, London

George Vaughton, finance, London

Elton Chan, finance, Hong Kong


Matthew Forrest, property litigation, Manchester

Siobhan Fitzgerald, employment, Bristol

Dan Read, commercial law, Bristol

Patrick Sweeney, commercial law, London

Matthew Grimwood, real estate, Bristol

Patrick Sheehan, real estate, Manchester

Antonia Silvestri, corporate, Bristol

Victoria Mabbett, commercial dispute resolution, Bristol