A&O in fees spanking shocker

There’s nothing to beat an English judge in a strop. Mr Justice Floyd’s costs judgment yesterday, where he slams Allen & Overy (A&O) for its bill in the BlackBerry litigation, doesn’t pull any punches.

Visto, advised by Taylor Wessing, put in a bill of £1.6m. BlackBerry manufacturers Research in Motion, advised by A&O, managed a whopping £5.2m. As Floyd J said, “it’s a quite staggering disparity… The picture summoned up by this bill of costs is one which is totally unfamiliar to anyone who has been involved in economically conducted patent litigation.”

The case is already the talk of the City (the FT gleefully put it on the front page this morning) and is currently the most-read story on www.thelawyer.com.

And even if you discount the usual Schadenfreude among rivals, the reaction has been uniformly incredulous. As one City IP partner says in a typical comment: “It’s a nasty blip for A&O to explain away.”

Herbie’s hedge fund healthcheck
17-April-2008

Hot on the heels of the HBOS debacle of recent weeks, when a dodgy email alleging that the mortgage lender had sought emergency talks with the Bank of England conveniently pushed its share price down only for hedge funds to rush in and buy, Herbert Smith has set up a team to help hedge funds ensure they don’t commit market abuse. See story.

The so-called ‘healthcheck’ is designed to tackle abuses such as ‘trash and cash’ dealing, where traders spread false rumours to push down share prices then buy up in the fire sale (see last sentence for details).

The group is led by financial services regulation partner Martyn Hopper, a former staffer in the Financial Services Authority (FSA) enforcement team, along with fellow FSR partner Patrick Buckingham, whose own pedigree includes work as European regulatory counsel at Lehman Bros.

It follows a bollocking meted out by the FSA to top funds in October, in which it said it was “disappointed” by the “complacent attitude” to preventing market abuse shown by many fund managers, advocating measures including phone tapping by way of remedy.

“The FSA was clearly not impressed by what it saw at some of the hedge funds it visited,” Buckingham plugged this afternoon. “They are saying: get yourself in order or we will be after you.”

And where Buckingham and Hopper lead, others may follow. Our tip for second place? Clifford Chance‘s Carlos Conceicao, former head of market integrity at… the Financial Services Authority.

Elle Macpherson and the Carter-Silk brief
16-April-2008

We hear lawyers boasting about sexy clients all the time, but Speechly Bircham‘s Alex Carter-Silk can probably trump them all.

The intellectual property lawyer advises Australian supermodel Elle “the body” Macpherson – including on her new deal to become the face of cosmetics giant Revlon. See story

Naturally that’s good news for Carter-Silk, but its also good news for Speechly technology and commerce head Robert Bond, who nabbed Carter-Silk from Manches this time last year as part of a re-launch of the team that included his own hire from Faegre & Benson just six months earlier. See story

Anyway, back to the sexism. Carter-Silk advises the model on all of her business interests, including the legal work for her lingerie range, Elle Macpherson Intimates.

“I have worked with him since 2003 and he understands my principles,” Macpherson said.

We bet he does.

Talk is cheap but expression’s not free
15-April-2008

Exciting news from Mischon De Reya today, which hopes to hold the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to account for 2008 games-host China’s not exactly Olympian record on free expression. See story

Better known for its work for Princess Diana and divorcees, the firm has written to IOC president Jacque Rogge to find out how he plans to back up his worthy statement last week that freedom of expression is a “basic human right”.

The letter, sent pro bono on behalf of Team Darfur, an international athletes group against human rights abuse, states that “no measures have been put in place to safeguard freedom of expression”.

It coincides with a report by Amnesty International this month that says that despite the IOC having selected China to host the Games on condition that it improve its human rights record, a “current wave of repression is occurring not in spite of the Olympics but actually because of the Olympics”.

Mishcon lawyer Alex Fawcett said it is imperative the IOC clarify its position and illustrate how protection for athletes that choose to speak out will be provided on a “practical level”.

“There is a need for clarification and we hope this is the beginning of a useful and valuable dialogue,” she added.

You and us both, Alex.

Gold: going for you?
14-April-2008

Herbert Smith has created the position of managing partner, with corporate partner David Willis taking on the job. See story.

Willis’ appointment will be welcome news for David Gold, doubtless a little weary after three years balancing his role as one of the City’s top litigators with that of the firm’s senior partner.

“Herbert Smith is a bigger, more international and more complex organisation than it was when I became senior partner,” Gold said.

“It is essential we have a management structure that reflects these factors… and the opportunities and challenges we face from the current period of economic uncertainty.”

Willis, meanwhile, talks of “strong leadership and management” that will be “particularly critical to our success in achieving the ambitious strategic goals developed by David.”

Good news for the senior partner, then, but perhaps not so good for partners who are senior. In the midst of a credit crunch and with more time for Gold to ask tough questions, we have a feeling what one of those goals will be: getting shot of underperforming partners, see story.

“Every business area is being looked at to make sure it’s efficient,” Gold told The Lawyer in October. “Over the coming couple of years one or two people will go more quickly than expected and there’ll be fewer people in the existing partnership.”

And with a record number of new partners on 1 May, lower billing partners hoping to stay in the fold might find that Gold’s new free time comes at the expense of their own.