Skadden Arps launches Euro litigation practice

New York firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom is taking on its first English-qualified litigation partner to spearhead a European drive into contentious work.
Paul Mitchard, who was head of litigation at Simmons & Simmons for five years before joining the London office of Wilmer Cutler & Pickering three years ago, will be the new European head of litigation.
He will help recruit a five-lawyer team to the London office and plans to embark on a European tour to find out what capability is needed in other offices. Skadden currently has offices in Brussels, Frankfurt and Paris.
Mitchard said: “What you need in a firm like Skadden is the ability to handle international arbitration in Europe as well as in the Far East and the Americas, and that is what they lacked until now. They didn't have anybody responsible for European arbitration.”
Mitchard is a solicitor advocate who spends the vast majority of his time in arbitration cases. Two of his highest profile cases include representing David Mayhew and Cazenove in the Guinness affair and acting for the UK offshore oil companies in a judicial review case bought by Greenpeace.
He was unable to name current clients because of the confidential nature of the work, but said he is currently involved in a commercial court case and in two international arbitrations in the industrial sector for multinational clients.
He says the bulk of his ongoing workload is moving with him to Skadden from Wilmer Cutler.
Wilmer Cutler now has no English-qualified litigation partners, as its other high profile recruit Arthur Marriott QC left the firm in 1997 for the London office of Debevoise & Plimpton.
Skadden London managing partner Bruce Buck said: “Our corporate transactional practice is pretty successful and out of it has really developed the need to develop an arbitration and litigation practice. Out of the transactional practice disputes arise.”
The firm had been looking to add litigation capability in London for around six months. The hire comes at a time of massive growth for the firm in Europe – since the summer Skadden has hired Lovells private equity star Allen Murray Jones and McDermott Will & Emery tax partner Tim Sanders.
Gary Born, head of litigation at Wilmer Cutler in London, said that Mitchard's departure would not damage the practice, which he said had had the best year in its history. He said the firm was already looking for an English-qualified litigation partner as it was known that Mitchard was leaving, and said that search would continue even more aggressively now.
Skadden has also ex-panded its German practice and set up an alliance with Italy's Chiomenti Studio Legale, the first of its kind for the firm (see page nine).