City firms rally to aid banks as credit crunch bites

City firms rally to aid banks as credit crunch bites City litigation teams are battling to win financial institution clients as the credit crunch leads to an upturn in disputes.

CMS Cameron McKenna and Norton Rose are the latest firms to reposition their disputes practices with a focus on the financial sector following the likes of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), Eversheds, Herbert Smith and Lovells.

Norton Rose dispute resolution chief Antony Dutton has brought in a five-year strategy for his group, with a focus on the core sectors of transport and logistics, insurance, energy, construction, and the largest group, financial institutions. Norton Rose’s financial institutions client base includes HIH Insurance, for which the firm recently won the right to recoup £98m worth of UK assets.

“The plan, which is something we’ve never done before, will look to build on the international practice and focus on five core sectors while ensuring the objectives of all areas of disputes are consistent,” said Dutton.

The move mirrors Herbert Smith’s new focus on banking clients such as Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs. Litigation chief Sonya Leydecker said: “We’ve made some strategic changes in the last 12 months to make the division more aligned with the sectors we want to focus on, such as financial institutions, energy, construction and pharma.”

Camerons, where litigation accounted for 26 per cent of total revenue last year, has created a disputes group for the first time, headed by partner Anthony Hobkinson.

“Disputes lawyers make up more than a third of the partnership, but because of the way we’re structured it’s not obvious what our disputes offering actually is,” said energy disputes partner Ben?Holland.?”Due?to litigation growth we felt we needed to plug this gap.”

Meanwhile,?as?The Lawyer revealed (14 April), BLP is centralising its contentious?business procedures, while Eversheds overhauled its litigation management to focus on commercial clients.

At Lovells, global disputes head Patrick Sherrington said he was refocusing the group to have sub-practices, including asset tracing and liability, to provide specialist services in the current litigious climate.