The story so far

The Lawyer reported last week that Allen & Overy has taken the first step in building a litigation practice in New York. The firm has hired Michael Feldberg from New York firm Schulte Roth & Zabel, where he was a partner for 11 years and chaired the litigation department. Meanwhile, former Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft partner Pamela Rogers Chepiga has joined as senior counsel. With the exception of Clifford Chance, London-based firms have historically shied away from the New York litigation market.

Jeremy Sandelson, London head of litigation, Clifford Chance
“To the extent that Allen & Overy wishes to be a serious player in the New York market, I'm not surprised that it has felt it necessary to offer its clients a litigation capability, although I suspect that, for it to be meaningful, the firm will have to increase its numbers dramatically. It's impossible to be a top New York law firm without a credible litigation practice. Clifford Chance, for example, has over 150 litigators in New York. It takes time to build a reputation in litigation and requires considerable commitment and investment – and some firms may not be prepared to make this investment.”

Dan Cunningham, New York senior partner, Allen & Overy
“We added litigation because we wanted to offer our clients a full service. We also needed a litigation department for a number of reasons. To support existing practice areas such as bankruptcy, our clients insisted on us having a litigation capability in New York, and there was an opportunity for us to build a first-class litigation practice. Our plan is to add several partners in short order. The litigation business is very strong in the US and so we think this practice area will grow rapidly. There's no question that our litigators will be busy from the beginning, and there's clearly space in the market if you hire the right people.”

Kevin Arquit, litigation partner, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
“Litigation is very active right now and it often tends to be counter-cyclical. Private litigation isn't uniquely New York-orientated, but understandably UK firms will tend to migrate into areas where they've had experience in London, because they're more knowledgeable in those areas and knowledge brings comfort. Any time a firm opens a new office or enters into a new practice area, an assessment is undertaken to assess the risks, and risk is easier to assess where there's knowledge. Hence, in the first instance, one sees a toe in the water and further activity based on that experience.”