Firm profile: Fenwick Elliott

A confident firm is one that can choose to turn away work. Fenwick Elliott is one such firm. The construction boutique, which moved into new premises on Aldwych just before Christmas, believes it is in the happy position of being the largest specialist construction law firm in the UK, following construction heavyweight Masons’ merger last year with Pinsents.

Fenwick Elliott” />Senior partner: Simon Tolson
Turnover: £5.1m
Total number of partners: 10
Total number of lawyers: 26
Main practice area: Construction
Key clients: Hochtief (UK) Construction, Kier Construction, Morgan Sindall, Mowlem and Norwest Holst Construction
Number of offices: One
Location: London

A confident firm is one that can choose to turn away work. Fenwick Elliott is one such firm. The construction boutique, which moved into new premises on Aldwych just before Christmas, believes it is in the happy position of being the largest specialist construction law firm in the UK, following construction heavyweight Masons’ merger last year with Pinsents. The office move is a physical sign of the firm’s permeating confidence.

“When I first started at the firm we had one floor plate of 800sq ft,” recalls senior partner Simon Tolson. “Now we’re looking at 11,400.”

The partnership has grown alongside the floor space and now numbers 10, all of whom share, to a greater or lesser degree, in the equity. “I introduced that when I became senior partner in April 2002,” says Tolson. However, there remain four principal equity partners in the meritocratic remuneration system.

Although the firm handles both contentious and non-contentious work, the booming area that Tolson and his partners have identified is international arbitration, in particular relating to oil and gas and construction projects. The firm has been involved in disputes as far afield as Turkey, Pakistan and Sudan.

As far as jurisdictions go, though, there is only one place to be if you are in construction. As Tolson points out: “There’s more construction work in Dubai than in any other jurisdiction in the world.”

Much of the activity in this honeypot for construction lawyers revolves around the famous ‘palms’ – the miles-wide, sea-based construction projects shaped like palm trees and so beloved of the rich and famous.
The first palm has been completed, the second is under construction and the third, still at the planning stage, is set to be some 412km across. That’s bigger than Paris, trivia fans.

Another mind-bogglingly ambitious project is modestly named ‘The World’, so called because each plot is named after a country. The luxury flat development, the largest man-made island anywhere, is 21 miles off the coast and has already attracted a $4m (£2.1m) deposit from one Rod Stewart.

Tolson visited Dubai in November on a fact-finding mission and is planning another outing in the next couple of months, with the task of winning work from the multitude of developers a priority. Do not bet against Tolson taking Fenwick Elliot’s own World-related deposit with him for a Dubai office.