Last week’s settlement of the mammoth Sumitomo fraud trial has left empty diaries across the bar. The trial, which kicked off just two weeks ago, was set down for 30 weeks. Settling this early means Sumitomo’s counsel Christopher Carr QC and fellow members of One Essex Court are now left twiddling their thumbs and waiting for the phone to ring with more work.
Meanwhile, Serle Court’s Michael Briggs QC is off on his holidays to India for some well-earned rest and relaxation following several solid months of work on Sumitomo for client Crédit Lyonnais Rouse.
For the high-profile Carr and Briggs, filling the diaries again with more work should be easy.
When it comes to the juniors involved, life will be harder. Settlements might be good for the clients – but they are less so for those now missing out on a potential 30 weeks of income. Better that, though, than a set of chambers which double books its tenants, thereby risking the wrath of clients when cases run to term.
Simmons showdown looms
The anti-semitism case brought by Simmons & Simmons partner Robert Schon rumbles on. With no obvious signs of a settlement, the Employment Tribunal held a directions hearing on 24 September, during which a case management conference was set for 11 November.
The two sides are set to meet at the tribunal on that date, but with at least one side being described as “up for it”, there seems little prospect of an early compromise, leaving the way clear for what promises to be a bitter court showdown next year.
The firm has a number of high-profile Jewish clients, including Arcadia entrepreneur Philip Green.
Long-serving tax partner Schon kicked off his unprecedented racial discrimination claim in July, and should the tribunal find in his favour, damages for lost income and injury to feeling are potentially unlimited.
Schon has worked at Simmons since 1984, making partner in 1988. He is one of a tiny number of partners who cannot be removed from the partnership because he has entrenched rights under an old partnership agreement.
The sums of the parts
Bevan Ashford today formally demerges its two halves, creating Bevan Brittan – the legacy Bristol, Birmingham and London arm – and Ashfords – the former Exeter, Plymouth and London operation. In the 18 years since the merger, the two arms have operated separate profit centres, IT systems and websites.
Bevan Brittan has made no secret of its national ambitions in its key practice areas of PFI/PPP, environment, regeneration and health, contrasting with the full service practice – including a private client offering – at Ashfords.
But while the rapidly expanding Bevan Brittan is assured of column inches, Ashfords should not be discounted. Following the demerger, the 243-fee-earner firm is set to become the fourth-largest law firm in the South West, ahead of Bevan Brittan with 164. And while it may have been dismissed by some as the ‘country cousin’, profits at Ashfords have long outstripped those of its more fashionable Bristol relative. Country they may be, but poor they ain’t.
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