News in Brief

Norton Rose and Denton Wilde Sapte acted on opposite sides of the Equitable Life test case that last week heralded the end of the insurance provider’s independent mutual status. Norton Rose acted for the policyholders with Jonathan Sumption QC as counsel. Denton Wilde, acting for Equitable Life, brought in Lord Grabiner QC, later replaced by Elizabeth Gloster QC. The House of Lords ruling, which prevents the company from differentiating between bonuses paid to the holders of policies with or without guaranteed annuity rates (GARs), will cost Equitable Life £1.5bn.

Allen & Overy is taking on a German professor as of counsel to support its dispute resolution practice. Peter Schlechtriem is currently director of the Institute for Foreign and International Private Law at the University of Freiburg. At A&O he will advise on drafting and analysis of complex contractual arrangements and support training programmes.

DJ Freeman is losing property consultant Keir McGuinness only eight months after he joined the firm. McGuinness, who resigned from highly rated property firm McGuinness Finch last year, is thought to be leaving the law. DJ Freeman had hoped to capitalise on his client contacts, understood to include National Power and Tesco.

Eversheds is losing the head of its London and international banking and financing practice and one of its senior banking partners. David Halliday is leaving at the end of July, while his fellow partner, Robin Parsons, is moving to the London office of Sidley & Austin. It is not yet known where Halliday is moving.

Cloisters’ leading senior criminal silk John Platts-Mills QC will cement the split between the set’s criminal and civil practice groups when he joins the board of 14 Tooks Court chambers in September. The 94-year old Platts-Mills, who is known as the grandfather of chambers, has negotiated a joint-tenancy agreement with both chambers. Platts-Mills will be following the group of criminal practitioners who left Cloisters to join 14 Tooks Court. Michael Mansfield QC will benefit from having his former mentor join his chambers.

McGrigor Donald won three PFI projects last week with a combined capital value of £220m. The contracts are for Highland Council Waste Management, Moray Firth Water & Sewerage and the Defence Housing Executive – Bristol, Bath, Shrivenham and Portsmouth Housing Project.

TLT Solicitors, the recently merged firm of Lawrence Tucketts and Trumps, has recruited Pinsent Curtis’ former Birmingham head of private equity Nick Cockcroft. He will join the Bristol practice as a consultant to the corporate finance team.

Landwell, the legal arm of big five accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, is bolstering its Estonian presence. Its associated firm, which is headed by former minister of justice Urmas Arumäe, is formally joining the network and will adopt the Landwell name.

Keogh Ritson, the niche insurance practice, is changing its name to Keogh Solicitors. The 23-partner firm has offices in Bolton, Coventry and Southampton.

The Queen’s Bench Division saw claims fall by 37 per cent while the Chancery Division had a fall of only 1 per cent, according to the Judicial Statistics Report of 1999. The drop has been blamed on the Woolf reforms and the quality of dealings at the QBD.

The Office of Fair Trading is reviewing its 19-day target for providing confidential guidance on cases. Figures show that out of 35 cases, only 55 per cent were dealt with within the 19-day period, 35 per cent less than its 90 per cent goal.

Herbert Smith is acting on the largest ever PFI hospital project – advising University College Hospitals NHS Trust on a £300m scheme to construct and maintain a state-of-the-art acute general hospital in central London. The 14-strong Herbert Smith team is being led by finance partners Jason Fox and Gary Hommel.