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Debevoise & Plimpton European litigation head Lord Peter Goldsmith QC was in a confident mood last Monday (18 January) as The Lawyer popped into Tower 42 for breakfast.
The day before the former UK attorney-general travelled to Switzerland to co-host a get-together on internal investigations with local firm Bär & Karrer, he held forth on the development of his ambition to build a one-stop shop in London for major disputes.
“That’s what’s happening,” he said. “Major cases come in and are, if necessary, litigated all the way to the court, with me, if possible or appropriate, handling the advocacy.” Goldsmith added that his plans to punt himself out as an advocate for hire to other firms had borne fruit, although he did not reveal details of cases.
Goldsmith joined Debevoise two years ago to beef up its London and European litigation and arbitration practice.
The Zurich event was another step in his European profile-raising plans, targeting internal corporate investigations and defence.
The current upsurge in work for white-collar litigators, plus Debevoise’s top-tier reputation for this kind of work, makes it an obvious focus for the firm.
Also, Goldsmith and Debevoise have a particular strength in investment treaty disputes, where the negotiations are often at the highest level of government.
Goldsmith believes investment treaty arbitration is a practice area in its own right. And if any firm has the inside track in this area, then it should be Debevoise, which has two former attorney-generals on board (another partner is Michael Mukasey, the former US attorney-general under George Bush).
Debevoise has long had a leading litigation and arbitration practice in the US, but it is in London and Europe where the recent big changes have taken place.
Goldsmith’s plans to grow headcount in the City are likely to continue this year, while changes are also afoot in the firm’s Moscow office.
“The office is staffed primarily with Russian lawyers, not expats without local knowledge we’ve parachuted in,” says Goldsmith. “Until now it hasn’t handled litigation or arbitration; it’s been handled by London primarily. Now, though, the office is starting to use Moscow associates for cross-border litigation and arbitration.”