Starr Legal's joint founding partner Toby Starr likens the fledgling firm to no-frills airline Ryanair, because it can get clients from A to B without paying for a glass of Château Neuf du Pape.
Starr Legal was launched by two associates from the London office of Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker, Wendy Lötter and Lisa Booth, and former Linklaters litigator Starr.
Lötter says that the firm was set up to address the need for senior lawyering in the City at reasonable rates. She says: “There's a real need for City lawyers to provide senior advice at rates that are reasonable, because it's becoming untenable for mid-cap companies to pay the legal fees that are coming out of bigger firms.”
Its founders claim that Starr Legal's fees are approximately 50 per cent lower than those charged by most City firms.
Lötter and Booth offer corporate, commercial and corporate finance law advice. Starr, who is a solicitor-advocate, represents clients in both arbitration and litigation cases. Together, the team targets mid-cap companies and small-to-medium venture capitalists and private equity funds.
Since launching in January, Starr Legal has already scooped instructions from Tesco, a trophy client of Berwin Leighton Paisner, which continues to advise the supermarket giant on other
matters. The firm has also completed a management buyout for Paul Hastings and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher client CableNet International, an online supply chain company.
Recently, Starr Legal handled a transaction in Europe that was referred from Paul Hastings due to the US firm being conflicted out. Additionally, the firm has won instructions to advise Ticketmaster on a deal valued at $6m (£3.7m) following a recommendation from a US firm.
Booth says: “When we first started, our main fear was that there would be a credibility gap, but it's been gratifying to find there's been none. Clients take into account our background and experience and these days are happy to explore alternatives to traditional law firms.”
On the litigation side, Starr is advising a software company on a £2m fraud claim. He is also advising the Middle Eastern Broadcasting Corporation, the premier broadcaster in the Middle East, on precontentious issues. Additionally, Starr is advising potential claimants against the Iraqi
government following the demise of the Baath Party.
There are just three lawyers at Starr Legal, but the firm is hoping to grow to around 10 partners within the next three to five years. Lötter says: “Those partners will have to be self-starters and share background and vision.”
She explains that the partners will be supported by a team of senior lawyers, who are likely to be from a City background but who are exploring alternatives to traditional partnership tracks. The firm is already in preliminary talks with a potential fourth partner.
Starr Legal has a robust business plan which is designed around maintaining low overheads. Lotter says: “The fact that we're in an economic downturn has worked in our favour, because potential clients have the time to listen to us and are very conscious of their legal spend.”