Comment: Litigators prepare as market enters phoney war but battle lines are yet to be drawn 

Comment: Litigators prepare as market enters phoney war but battle lines are yet to be drawn 

The received wisdom is that a downward trajectory in the economy results in an upward trajectory in contentious work as the environment becomes more acrimonious, and by extension more litigious. Of course, this is a simplistic take, but it does describe something that is approximately true.

But no downturn completely resembles the one before it. Though an overused description generally, even a cursory glance at the state of the economy shows the chaos wrought by the Covid-19 lockdown is truly unprecedented – the 20.4% contraction in in the economy during the second quarter of 2020 was the largest since records began.  Continue reading “Comment: Litigators prepare as market enters phoney war but battle lines are yet to be drawn “

Perfect storms – Cases of the year

Perfect storms – Cases of the year

Cash-rich funders; conflict-free boutiques; class actions aplenty. While some predict another economic downturn on the horizon, providing an uptick in conventional litigation work, these themes have defined the more eye-catching disputes of the past year. Add to the mix an increase in cyber-related litigation and accusations of fraud and regulatory missteps against some of the leading firms’ key institutional clients, and a kinetic disputes scene emerges.

Many of these developments are US imports, particularly class actions and a more aggressive approach to accusations of fraud. These US-style claims are often being pursued by disputes boutiques increasingly allying themselves with external funders. As a result, the stranglehold City bluebloods have over big-ticket litigation has loosened, while some feel only two or three of the smaller players are of sufficient quality to cause real disruption (see our boutiques report). Continue reading “Perfect storms – Cases of the year”

‘Serious loss of morale’: The recruitment crisis at the bench deepens

‘Serious loss of morale’: The recruitment crisis at the bench deepens

Cumulative cuts to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) budget over the past decade, amounting to 40% in total, have had a profound impact on the UK’s publicly funded legal system. One corollary is that there are too few senior judges. First and foremost, this is because insufficient candidates of quality have applied to become a High Court judge.

‘There seems to be a continued problem with recruitment, not in terms of quality, but in terms of numbers,’ says former chair of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC. Recognised as a perennial problem by the government, a streamlined application process was introduced last year. But this has done little to help. Vacancies remain across all three divisions: Queen’s Bench (QBD), Family and Chancery. Continue reading “‘Serious loss of morale’: The recruitment crisis at the bench deepens”

Litigation support – The right-hand men (and women)

Litigation support – The right-hand men (and women)

As the forum of choice for international litigants, London continues to enjoy an unparalleled reputation for high-value dispute resolution. The quality of justice delivered by its commercial courts is underpinned by the calibre of specialist independent judges and the lawyers that work in them. But beyond the courtroom door, a diverse range of specialist litigation support providers routinely help to bolster the case being put forward by the legal teams on both sides.

From asset tracing, e-discovery and forensic accounting to third-party funding, PR and witness training, many of these services are now increasingly central to formulating a successful dispute strategy. Critically, the level of sophistication required frequently goes beyond the capacity of in-house expertise available to general counsel (GCs), or even to the largest law firms. Continue reading “Litigation support – The right-hand men (and women)”

Market Report: Tax Litigation – Introducing the hard line

Market Report: Tax Litigation – Introducing the hard line

Post Brexit, HMRC is renewing its litigation focus on corporate tax evasion, enhanced by new powers to investigate corporate criminal offences. Dominic Carman reports

Like stargazing through a telescope, tax disputes look back in time. The typical gestation period between issues first catching HMRC’s attention and a dispute reaching court can take up to five years, sometimes longer. Nick Skerrett (pictured), head of contentious tax at Simmons & Simmons, says there has been a maturation of the governance processes within HMRC. ‘It is starting to bed down and HMRC has become more adept in its approach to working out those cases that it ultimately wants to come before the courts from those that it does not,’ he says. Continue reading “Market Report: Tax Litigation – Introducing the hard line”

Disputes perspectives: Craig Pollack

Disputes perspectives: Craig Pollack

I was supposed to study economics and realised I was not a very good economist. Then I went to study law in Israel and almost from the first lecture it all made sense. It explained the rule of law means we’re all treated equally and there’s due process if you get arrested. I come from Africa where in Zimbabwe and in South Africa there was no rule of law for black people.

I was hooked early on, but wasn’t hooked as a litigator. I thought I’d be a corporate lawyer, come to England, get involved in all this big M&A and it would be a fantastic, go-go, rock ‘n’ roll thing. Continue reading “Disputes perspectives: Craig Pollack”

Disputes perspectives: Geraldine Elliott

Disputes perspectives: Geraldine Elliott

I wanted a professional career. My father was a doctor but very keen I didn’t do medicine. I had a scientific background and law is a very analytical process. I’d watched a few television programmes about criminal lawyers.

Law was the right career for me. The life of doctors is very tough and there’s effectively one employer, whereas in law it’s easier for you to create a career because it’s constantly changing and there’s always something that can grab your interest. New people coming onto the market and changes in the competition make a massive difference. Continue reading “Disputes perspectives: Geraldine Elliott”

Disputes perspectives: Paula Hodges QC

Disputes perspectives: Paula Hodges QC

Becoming a lawyer was suggested to me by other people. I was about 15, and doing a lot of debating and public speaking in school. People started saying to me: ‘You should think about becoming a lawyer.’ The school was supportive, and sent me to conferences and such.

It was also because of watching TV. A lot of people say Crown Court, but I liked the American ones. The media attraction got me thinking about the advocacy side. Continue reading “Disputes perspectives: Paula Hodges QC”

Disputes perspectives: Constantine Partasides QC

Disputes perspectives: Constantine Partasides QC

Modern history was my undergrad. History has always been my passion. I had a sense I’d be a lawyer, but I thought I’d be spending enough of life studying and practising law so I decided to do something else. The MPhil in International Relations was really a continuation of the history because my history was mostly political history.

You bring a personal perspective to the law. The law is a discipline that benefits from other academic pursuits. The ability to tell a story is central to history and also part of pleading a case in law. Being able to weave together facts in a coherent manner is part of what we do as arbitration lawyers. Continue reading “Disputes perspectives: Constantine Partasides QC”