Grapevine

No fond farewells for those who deign to ditch Dentons

Calling all PRs. If you want to learn the art of bitching about departing partners, then Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) is offering masterclasses. Recently the City firm has poured scorn on every partner that has decided to leave. Its ability to rage against departees is without equal. It all began in September when the firm lost veteran lawyer Mark Gill to Addleshaws. Chief executive Howard Morris said at the time: “The firm’s moving on and we have no concerns about his departure.” A spokesperson added: “If some partners can’t adjust [to the firm’s realignment along sector lines], then it’s better that they’re elsewhere.” Miaow.

Now we have the extraordinary reaction to the departures to Herbert Smith of leveraged finance partners Chris Fanner and Ian Yeo (see page 1). DWS’s parting gift amounts to a two-finger salute. It seems the days of “we wish them well” are behind us. Still, DWS has had more practice than most at saying sayonara to partners in the past year.

End of Equitable is anything but

Friday’s (2 December) news that Equitable Life had settled with the remaining nine directors it was suing for negligence brings to an end the most extraordinary year of litigation, with two of the biggest cases ever to reach English courts collapsing.

The settlement terms, under which Equitable will pay out millions of pounds in costs to the directors, vindicate the position taken by the directors’ legal teams at Simmons & Simmons and Allen & Overy (A&O) of not accepting a ‘drop-hands’ agreement.

A&O’s Tim House and Simmons’ Philip Vaughan are both firmly convinced that the case should never have come to trial, and that Mr Justice Langley’s judgment would have been in favour of their clients. The timing of the settlement, which happened only days after the defendants submitted closing statements, neatly avoids any judgment being made. Equitable is arguing that it was duty-bound to pursue the case – the results suggest quite the opposite.

Bar gets bent out of shape as 199 Strand succumbs

There never used to be much talk about movement within the bar, but that is starting to change. Last week 199 Strand became the largest set yet to announce its disbandment, citing a loss of critical mass as the reason for collapse. No surprise that the Inns are buzzing with gossip about mergers right now.

Critical mass is a bizarre reason to offer, particularly given the number of tenants at 199: 36 full-time barristers with another four door and part-time members. True, a few departed over the summer, but it was hardly the exodus that drove sets such as 2 Mitre Court Buildings to the brink. Business development director Martin Griffiths denies that a recent request for £10,000 from each member to fund the deposit for a new lease was to blame, saying instead that the set was no longer a viable competitor in the current market.

Whatever the reason, the collapse leaves the door open for competing chambers to pick up new tenants looking for homes. They have until the end of February.