Hunton & Williams is looking to address what its global managing partner Wally Martinez describes as a “glaring weakness” in its London offering - litigation.
Martinez, himself a litigator and white collar criminal defence specialist, was in London last week on one of his regular quarterly visits to the City.
Although the US partner is looking for growth opportunities generally, claiming it is “critical” to grow the London office, Martinez admits it is an issue that Hunton’s stateside strength in litigation is not mirrored in the UK.
“Hunton is an intensely relationship-focused firm and we want to be able to offer the full variety of services to clients across our offices,” says Martinez.
Firmwide, contentious matters generated around 50 per cent, or $334m (£200.46m), of Hunton’s revenue in 2008. However, the firm’s City office is better known for its finance, technology, energy and corporate practices.
As a consequence, the contentious elements of UK matters currently either have to be outsourced or handed over to another of the client’s regular external advisers.
“Litigation is one of the largest practice areas in the firm and in my opinion it’s a hole in our offering that we don’t have a contentious capability in London,” adds Martinez.
If and when Hunton does launch a contentious capability in London, then international arbitration is likely to feature prominently.
“Everyone wants to play in international arbitration,” says Martinez. “We’d love to.”
Martinez added that it would be possible for the firm to relocate one or more of its US disputes partners to kickstart a contentious practice but that it would be preferable to bring in a UK-qualified lateral.
He said the firm was on track to have a good financial year, although unusually for a US firm its fiscal period runs from 1 April to 31 March.