HSF on board in new FFW partner row

Here we go again at FFW, as HSF is drafted in to sort out yet another partner row

Mark Abell’s dispute with his ex-firm Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) took a new twist last week when it emerged that the former IP and IT head has instructed Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) partner Alan Watts for advice on his move to Bird & Bird.

The details of FFW’s claims are unclear, but sources suggest they could concern an alleged breach of the firm’s partnership agreement by high-profile Abell. (FFW declined to comment; Abell did not return several calls.)

The latest development is another chapter in a long story of partner-on-partner or partner-on-firm disputes at FFW, and HSF is becoming well-acquainted with the file.

In 2000 FFW sued then patent partner Barbara Cookson after she went independent. Legacy Herbert Smith acted for the City outfit, but back then that meant the client was development partner Abell.

IP partner John Olsen sued the firm, including Abell in person, in 2008 for alleged harassment and age discrimination, claiming Abell tried to “marginalise” Olsen. Olsen, who was 60 at the time, instructed Mishcon de Reya partner James Libson and Allen & Overy partner Richard Turnor, now of private client boutique Maurice Turnor Gardner. FFW used employment and partnership partner Jo Keddie of Dawsons (now Penningtons). The case was settled. Keddie, who has since moved to Winckworth Sherwood, is also instructed in the latest spat.

The 2013 chapter of the saga pits against each other firms with long experience of acting for or against FFW, but the key figure no longer on the scene is former Herbert Smith senior partner David Gold, who led on the Cookson dispute. Watts, however, did much of the heavy lifting back in 2000 and effectively ran the case.

Gold has since left to launch litigation boutique David Gold & Associates, leaving Watts to take the helm for Abell.

Away from all this, Watts is more famous for grilling candidates on TV’s The Apprentice after doing a favour for client Sir Alan Sugar.

When it comes to Abell, Watts has most certainly not been fired.

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