Mr Justice Peter Smith and Addleshaw Goddard were in negotiations that would have seen the judge join the firm in a £750,000-a-year package for him and a court assistant, which would have equated to the top of the Addleshaws’ equity.
However, five months of talks broke down at the end of May after the judge pushed for a decision from the firm.
The negotiations were disclosed in a Court of Appeal recusal hearing last week (4 July), but not the potential package.
In the case of Howell v Lees-Millais, Addleshaws, whose private client head Paul Howell was one of the parties in the case, was looking for the judge to stand down.
The Court of Appeal divulged that an email to Peter Smith J from Addleshaws’ head of the contentious group Simon Twigden stated that the firm could not offer the judge a position. Twigden cited “financial reasons” as an explanation for why the firm would not be “taking matters any further”.
The initial point of contact in the discussions is understood to have been senior partner Paul Lee, whom Peter Smith J knows from Manchester legal circles.
A source at the law firm said the judge’s role would have been to give clients an assessment of the probabilities of winning any potential disputes.
The source added: “The judge was pushing for us to tell him before June and I’ve been told that it’s because he was talking to other firms.”
The disclosure of Peter Smith J’s discussions come after months of speculation that he is looking to stand down.
One Addleshaws partner said: “If the employment talks with us had worked he would have found himself in a good financial position.”
An Addleshaws spokesman said: “The discussions between the firm and the judge were confidential and that remains our position.”
A spokesman from the Judicial Office said: “As we understand it, the judge never suggested an amount of £750,000.”