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Chris Mallon made his name at Lovells as the man who co-ordinated London lawyers in the BCCI case. Now he has been lured from Biddle and handed the task of making Freshfields on of the best. Gulshanah Choudhuri reports
The Italian island of Capri is a far cry from the Freshfields insolvency group. But it is the holiday destination Chris Mallon would most like to go to, which is not surprising given that if he had not become a lawyer, he would have followed in the footsteps of his grandfather - a master mariner.
Freshfields has recruited Mallon, a rising star in insolvency, from Biddle, to team up with former Clifford Chance partner Sandy Shandro. He is the second high profile lawyer to be snapped up by the firm as it bids to become a major player in the insolvency market.
The team, comprising four partners and 10 assistants, will be led by group head Peter Bloxham. Mallon has been given the challenging task of developing the practice, increasing the profile of insolvency and restructuring the firm. "Insolvency is an area that is currently waiting in the wings for the turmoil to end in the financial markets," says Mallon.
"There always has been, and always will be, a level of formal insolvencies, but the trend is to move away into informal restructuring."
At 42, Mallon has covered much of the professional ground in a relatively short space of time. Chambers says he "knows his stuff and presents it well." He is also known for his asset-tracing abilities.
But he is a modest man. When probed about his strengths, Mallon says his strongest point is his "user friendliness"; his weakest, after an awkward pause, "not having enough time to keep up to date with all the developments in the field".
A Scotsman by birth, Mallon grew up and studied in Australia. He gained two degrees: an LLB and a bachelor of arts in ancient history. He qualified in 1982, practising in Perth for three years before joining Lovell White & King (as it was then known).
Mallon started out at Lovells as an assistant from 1987 to 1995, entering the history books through his involvement in the largest ever insolvency case - BCCI. It was he who was directly responsible for co-ordinating lawyers in London, which was no mean task given that by the end of the case there was more than 100.
Ironically, it was originally Freshfields, the traditional lawyers for the Bank of England, that petitioned for the liquidation of BCCI.
At Lovells, Mallon worked alongside Peter Horrocks, head of insolvency and leader of the team on the BCCI case. He taught Mallon two things. "Firstly, how to organise the biggest ever insolvency case and, secondly, how to deal with groups of very difficult clients that had entrenched positions," says Mallon.
From Lovells, Mallon moved on to Biddles, spending three years as head of insolvency and building up the practice.
Mallon's approach is single-minded, and his ambition admirable. His intentions are clear - he wants to make Freshfields one of the best. And, with his reputation and sound profile, he has the will to succeed. But that trip to Capri will have to wait. For the time being, he will have to make do with a sculling boat moored at Henley-upon-Thames. Chris Mallon Partner Freshfields