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For many litigators across the City, the prospect of working in a high-powered litigation boutique is attractive.
One recent example of this was the decision taken by Addleshaw Goddard head of litigation, Simon Twigden, and partner Pietro Marino, to set up their own shop.
Gerald Cooke retired from Baker & McKenzie in 2004 to launch litigation boutique Masseys with Sean Upson and Jane Colston. In early 2009 he broke away from the firm to establish Cooke Young & Keidan. “We’ve been quite successful,” he says. “We have eight fee earners and have doubled in size in 18 months.”
Cooke said the boutique model appealed because he could be more hands-on with clients. “At the big firm I struggled to explain why we were charging headline rates even though the client hardly saw me,” he reveals. “I had a growing stable of clients in the insurance market and there was downward pressure on rates. It was hard to explain and I got tired of that.”
Cooke launched the boutique with former Bakers associate Philip Young, who specialises in international trade disputes, and former Addleshaw associate Marc Keidan, who specialises in commercial disputes.
Keidan says the firm has picked up a raft of referrals from its peers, which have been conflicted on high-value instructions. This has included acting against major banks for a range of hedge funds, which have seen values plummet as a result of the recession. “These are cases that didn’t come to us because of value for money but because they were recommended to use us,” Keidan insists.
The partners are planning to stick to their plan of being small but profitable. With the firm predicting a 20 per cent rise in fee income for the current year, it is not difficult to see why the boutique model is appealing to some City big-hitters.
Managing partner: Gerald Cooke Turnover: £1.5m Number of partners: Three Number of equity partners: Three Number of lawyers: Seven Number of fee-earners: Eight Main practice areas: Commercial disputes including financial and hedge fund disputes, trade and insurance disputes, partnership and corporate disputes and professional negligence Key clients: Highland Capital, SWP Group, Toyota Tsusho, various syndicates at Lloyds Number of offices: One Location: London