Taylor Wessing loses Nixon Peabody US court fight

<a class=Taylor Wessing loses Nixon Peabody US court fight” />Nixon Peabody today won its case against Taylor Wessing France (TWF), paving the way for 13 French partners to join the US firm.

As reported by The Lawyer on Monday (15 September), the two firms had agreed to seek summary judgment from the New York State Supreme Court.

This afternoon, Justice Kenneth Fisher ruled in favour of Nixon Peabody on all claims, affirming that the US firm had acted appropriately in its recruiting discussions.

“From the start, we were convinced these claims should have never been filed,” said Richard Langan, the managing partner and CEO of Nixon Peabody. “We are pleased that the judge was able to see through these unfounded claims.”

Langan added that Nixon Peabody “enthusiastically looks forward to welcoming a team of dynamic partners from Taylor Wessing France to join our firm as we expand our international presence”.

The case centred on whether Nixon Peabody had breached a clause in a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) signed on 31 July 2007, when the two firms were in merger talks.

The talks broke down in October 2007, leading to Nixon Peabody’s hire of a group of TWF non-equity partners as well as former managing partner Arnaud de Senilhes to set up its own Paris office (www.thelawyer.com 6 August).

A Nixon Peabody spokesperson said today’s decision had, “settled all claims” with TWF.

However Taylor Wessing UK managing partner Michael Frawley said that he was surprised by the judge’s findings and is in the process of reviewing the judgment for possible appeal.

He said: “This case demonstrates that these non-solicitation clauses, which are common in commercial agreements in the UK and most of Europe, are void as a matter of public policy in NY. What is disappointing is that Nixon Peabody agreed to this restriction, only for them to assert subsequently that the restriction was always unenforceable.”

Frawley added that the firm was in the process of rebuilding TWF with the remaining eight partners and 30 fee-earners. “We are confident it will go from strength to strength,” he said.

A team of lawyers from Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler in New York and The Wolford Law Firm in Rochester, NY worked on the case for Nixon Peabody.

Name partner Marc Dreier of Dreier represented TWF. Dreier said it was too early to say whether TWF would appeal the result.

“We just got the decision two hours ago so [any further course of action] is something that we will consider,” Dreier said.