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White & Case and Hong Kong firm Deacons could teach the British Royal Family a thing or two about bitter divorces.
The curtain has finally come down on the two-year battle between the firms over a group of insolvency partners who defected to White & Case in June 2002.
Mark Fairbairn and Edward Cairns, the two key Deacons partners involved, and the two firms have settled in advance of yet another appeal, this time by White & Case and the two partners.
The Hong Kong high court ruled last year that White & Case had encouraged Cairns and Fairbairn to break the terms of their partnership agreements and persuade clients to move with them. It found the partners had breached their partnership contract, illegally tried to persuade Deacons clients to follow them and passed confidential information to White & Case while at Deacons.
Unfortunately, the terms of the settlement are confidential.
The US firm put a statement out late last Friday claiming: "Deacons and White & Case look forward to re-establishing the amicable relationship they previously enjoyed.”
First, there’s a fair old amount of bridge building to be done...
Deacons once argued in court that Fairbairn and Cairns used a lunch paid for by their old firm to lure key client Standard Chartered to White & Case.
And White & Case appealed Judge Poon’s decision to strike out much of the US firm’s defence claiming he was biased because he had an old connection with a Deacons partner.
Thanks partly to the influence of US firms – where a client service ethic means that even superstars can quit on Friday and start at a rival law firm on a Monday – gardening leave is a rare sight in the UK these days.
Even Tim Polglase, Clive Wells and Robin Harvey, the Norton Rose acquisition finance quartet who famously defected to Allen & Overy in 2002, only got two months in their gardens, despite the fact that the firm could have held them to six.
White & Case v Deacons was good entertainment, but let’s be grateful that seven-year restrictive covenants would not be enforced in the UK.