Grapevine

Beaufort House swap shop

There’s a game of musical chairs going on over at Beaufort House. First Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) litigation partner Richard Spafford packed his bags and moved upstairs to Richards Butler. Now Richards Butler shipping insurance partner Chris Zavos has made the trek down to BLG, where he rejoins old colleagues Tim Taylor and Patrick Foss, who joined the firm from Hill Taylor Dickinson back in May 2003.

Zavos left Hill Taylor Dickinson a year after his colleagues. In rejoining them at BLG he will become part of a small but quality department aiming to make a name for itself in this niche area.

BLG could not have chosen a better time to make a play at its upstairs neighbour. As Richards Butler finalises its merger talks with US firm Reed Smith, rival firms showing commitment to niche practice areas such as shipping will surely be able to tempt away a few more practitioners. And Reed Smith might not be sorry to see them go.

Bank of England leaves its mark on Lovells

The litigation brought by Deloitte, the liquidators of BCCI, against the Bank of England was just one part of a mammoth task to recoup millions of pounds after the 1991 collapse of the BCCI trial.

Here in the UK, Lovells has acted as the liquidators’ representative throughout. The firm has settled a claim against the Bank of America and won one against the Bank of India. But the Bank of England case is a big black mark against an otherwise reasonable record. Deloitte must now ask whether Lovells should continue to act, as more loose BCCI ends are tied up.

When confronted by the question from The Lawyer last week, the liquidators were coy, offering “no response” – hardly the ringing endorsement Lovells needs. Deloitte should consider its own advice on how to recover money in an international liquidation: “Be realistic when you consider the cost and benefits of litigation.” In the case of the Bank of England, cost has certainly outweighed benefit.

Hammonds ‘fixes’ it

It’s the time of year where a fresh batch of senior associates are getting the nod to climb the ladder to partnership. Oddly, the firms that have had the toughest year always seem to make up the most partners.

Norton Rose has made up a bumper batch of associates. Its reasons were obvious: having lost a lot of partners during the year, it is always easier to fill in the holes from the bottom up.

Take Hammonds (will somebody please take Hammonds!). There’s been financial problems, an equity partner lock-in and litigation threatened by ex-partners, but still the firm has persuaded 17 associates to take on fixed-share partnership status. Perhaps they were swayed by the prospect of earning more than a junior equity partner with less of the risk. In 2005 the firm’s equity spread began at £103,000, but salaried partners were on around £118,000. Fair enough… but are these guys @%*£ing crazy? The lock-in may be ending, the ship might have steadied, but would you invest in Hammonds right now?