The first issue of The Lawyer in January is traditionally an exercise in talent-spotting, since it has a fortunate conjunction of The Hot 100 and the top cases of the year. Both are barometers of the market in different ways.
The Hot 100 is deliberately eclectic. Many of the names you will know, some you won’t; but we can predict that they’ll achieve prominence in 2011. Without wanting to jinx anyone’s career, The Hot 100 has been a pretty accurate indicator of future performance. Take Addleshaws’ Mark Hastings, whom we spotted last year for The Hot 100; he has subsequently driven through the market’s biggest ’no win, low fee’ arrangement for his client Berezovsky. Or 3 Verulam Buildings junior Sonia Tolaney, one of the few non-silks in the litigation section of 2010’s Hot 100. Now she’s appearing in two of The Lawyer’s top cases of 2011.
By popular demand, we’ve expanded our top cases of the year from 10 to 20. 2010 was dominated by insurance litigation, but 2011’s list includes two judicial reviews, two Competition Appeal Tribunal cases and some mega-actions, such as the five fraud proceedings being managed together in the Commercial Court. As senior reporter Katy Dowell notes, a new elite at the bar is being formed, with the stars of the older generation handing on the baton to the likes of Dinah Rose QC, John Howell QC and Monica Carrs-Frisk of Blackstone, Jemima Stratford QC of Brick Court and Justin Fenwick of 4 New Square, among others. And on the solicitor side the usual suspects of Freshfields, Herbert Smith and Hogan Lovells do considerably better than Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters.
However, in pleasing contrast to the M&A deals tables (see page 8), it’s not all about the big firms. Not only do niche practices abound, but there is emerging a group of mid-market practices such as Addleshaws’ and Stephenson Harwood’s, whose top-flight showings consistently best those of firms twice their size.
It’s bizarre that City status is so tied up with M&A when litigation throws up such a different pecking order. Like The Hot 100, The Lawyer’s cases of the year give a more rounded picture of the market; we hope you enjoy reading them.