THE LAWYER AWARDS 2008 PREVIEW

THE LAWYER AWARDS 2008 PREVIEW
The Lawyer Awards 2008 is the premier event in the legal calendar. Every June around 1,500 of the industry’s leading lawyers gather in the Great Room of the Grosvenor House Hotel to celebrate their achievements of the previous year.

Private practitioners, in-house counsel and barristers alike wait on tenterhooks to hear whether The Lawyer has named them a winner.

Every year we are deluged with hundreds of entries that The Lawyer team has to sift through, interviewing hundreds of lawyers and their clients about the year’s highlights. The Lawyer’s stellar advisory panel then helps us choose the winners.

This exhaustive process ensures that The Lawyer Awards is the most comprehensive reflection of the current state of the commercial legal market.

The shortlist has been finalised and you can read about a selection of the awards on the following pages. For the full list, see www.thelawyer.com/lawyerawards.

But to find out the winners you will have to join us at the Grosvenor on 24 June.

LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR

Ashurst

Silver circle firm Ashurst has powered away from the City also-rans in recent years on the back of elite corporate and structured finance practices. Despite the onset of the credit crunch the firm continued to advise on multibillion-pound deals for clients such as Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Cazenove. The firm continues to expand its geographic reach with more than a third of its revenue generated from outside the UK.

Eversheds

Eversheds has become a formidable force to be reckoned following its modernising revolution. Since replacing around 200 firms to service engineering conglomerate Tyco in January 2007 it has won more than a dozen new clients. Its rapid client growth has been accompanied by the exponential expansion of its global operations, adding six new international offices to its capabilities.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer famously revolutionised its partnership with major restructuring and the results have been exceptional. The leaner, more focused firm has had an incredible year, landing roles on practically every high-profile deal the City has had to offer. From rights issues to major transatlantic buyouts, the firm has been very much to the fore. As a leading global brand Freshfields has been quick to recognise the importance of internationalisation and is swiftly building up world-class practices around the globe to mirror its success in London.

Nabarro

Managing partner Nicole Paradise and senior partner Simon Johnston have continued to steer a strong course for this mid-market champion. High-profile instructions for Northern Rock shareholder RAB Capital, ongoing work for Land Securities and the Cardiff FC litigation win all helped Nabarro reach double-digit revenue growth this year, while further afield the firm has exploded onto the international scene, establishing alliances with firms in Spain and Italy.

Stephenson Harwood

In the past year Stephenson Harwood has built up a City-beating AIM practice as well as commercial litigation and real estate departments to rival any mid-market firm’s. The effort has been rewarded with a deluge of client wins, including KPMG and Lazard Asset Management.

Travers Smith

Corporate specialist Travers Smith has remained a consistently strong performer, even in the constricted marketplace created by the credit crunch. In 2007 Travers completed more than 140 transactions with a combined value of more than £29bn. The firm’s private equity practice has been particularly lucrative, with clients such as 3i and Bridgepoint providing a steady flow of work.

INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR

Bird & Bird

Bird & Bird has transformed from an IP/IT boutique into an global full-service firm with a series of office launches that has seen it conquer Western Europe. It has since looked eastwards, with a merger in Finland and an imminent opening in Prague.

Gide Loyrette Nouel

Few French firms have managed to gain solid footholds in several jurisdictions at once, but Gide Loyrette Nouel’s focus on cross-border capital markets and big corporate deals has paid off, with the firm advising on $28bn (£14.16bn) worth of debt deals so far in 2008.

Mayer Brown

One of the world’s true transatlantic giants, Mayer Brown is blessed not only with a rapidly growing international footprint, but a dynamic leadership, best personified by global vice-chair Paul Maher. Last year’s acquisition of Asia heavyweight Johnson Stokes & Master was a statement of intent from Mayer Brown. While it is not without its internal issues, the firm looks well set to challenge for global dominance in the coming years.

Salans

The credit crunch has hardly grazed Salans, which is expanding at a faster rate than ever. Its strength is its practice in Central and Eastern Europe, which has this year grown to become the envy of many much bigger firms.

Uría Menéndez

Just being the Spanish ally of Slaughter and May is not enough for Uría Menéndez. The firm has taken matters into its own hands and boldly launched in Poland to become one of the few Spanish independent firms to have an Eastern Europe presence.

White & Case

White & Case has long dedicated itself to becoming a global firm. With offices across the world the US firm has more than made its mark in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Its London and New York capital markets practice has secured the highest calibre of clients, including Deutsche Bank, which has long featured on the global client list.

REGIONAL/NATIONAL LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR

Burness

Scottish firm Burness has played to its strengths over the past few years and the focused approach has paid off. An impressive client list sees the firm acting for a plethora of councils across Scotland, as well as a range of high-profile corporates, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life. A spate of hires from local rivals and City firms proves that, when it comes to Scotland, Burness has got the market cornered.

Clarke Willmott

In 2007 Clarke Willmott relocated its headquarters and managing partner David Sedgwick from its South West heartland to Birmingham. The firm has picked up a string of panel appointments, including B&Q Properties, the easy Group and the Crown Estate. It has shown a flexible approach to its work, reflecting its determination to stay ahead of its peer group by refusing to stand still and continually diversifying.

Dickinson Dees

Dickinson Dees has enjoyed low-key success across its corporate, public sector, real estate and litigation teams. Highlights include winning new clients Costcutter, Sabic UK Petrochemicals and Vertellus; advising rail operator Go-Ahead Group on its £1.1bn bid for the West Midland franchise; and advising on the £2bn National Contractors Framework panel for school building.

EMW Law

Under the charismatic leadership of chairman Ian Morris and chief executive Joy Vollans, Milton Keynes’ EMW Law has boosted turnover by almost a third and doubled profit during the last year. The firm provides a quality alternative to London’s pricier firms and has worked regularly for banks such as Abbey, Barclays, Nationwide and HBOS.

Pinsent Masons

Pinsent Masons is characterised by strong revenue growth and high profitability compared with its peers and has developed one of the best construction teams in the UK. But what really sets the firm apart is an internal culture based on ethical values.

PARTNER OF THE YEAR

Maurice Allen, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

It was without doubt one of the biggest moves of the year. Finance partner Maurice Allen’s decision, together with partner Mike Goetz, to jettison White & Case in favour of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer said as much about the magic circle firm’s lender side ambitions as it did about the internal management battles at the US firm. Of course, it also spoke reams about the continuing ambition of Allen himself.

Gideon Benaim, Schillings

Made a partner just two years ago, Gideon Benaim has already reached the sparkling lights. Benaim’s skills in 2004 led to privacy rights being fully established in English law. This year he has managed to extend this to children’s privacy after JK Rowling sued photographers for taking pictures of her son.

Chris Carroll, Travers Smith

Travers Smith managing partner Chris Carroll helped push average profit per equity partner to more than £800,000 in 2007 – not bad for a firm placed 33rd by revenue in the UK 200 table. He is a tireless advocate, travelling the globe to foster contacts in both established and emerging markets, and his laid-back style conceals impressive business acumen and a drive to succeed. Sophie Hamilton, ForstersLeading commercial property partner Sophie Hamilton has contributed significantly to rising profitability at Forsters, where she has been senior partner since 2001. Hamilton, who stands down in August, takes an entrepreneurial approach to lawyering and is willing to take calculated risks for the benefit of her firm. It is an approach that has paid off – this year Forsters celebrates its 10th anniversary with a year-end turnover of £23.6m. Her successor will have big shoes to fill.

Will Lawes, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Global financial institutions head Will Lawes is one of the four corporate rainmakers who started the Freshfields revolution back in 2005. This year he has had a hand in some of the City’s most eye-catching deals, including Royal Bank of Scotland’s record £12bn rights issue and Pearl Group’s £4.5bn acquisition of life company Resolution, as well as advising Northern Rock as a takeover target.

Nick Thomas, Kennedys

A hero in the insurance world, Nick Thomas has successfully led the international expansion of Kennedys by moving into Singapore while also growing its domestic operations by opening in Manchester. The Kennedys managing partner will represent defendant insurers in the Buncefield litigation case later this year. It will to be among the largest insurance claims ever brought in the UK, totalling £1bn.

IN-HOUSE LAWYER OF THE YEAR

John Downing, Imperial Tobacco

John Downing has been an integral part of Imperial Tobacco’s expansion strategy, working overtime on some of the past year’s biggest and most complex cross-border deals. The £10bn purchase of Spanish tobacco company Altadis saw Downing at the heart of a deal that got the whole City talking.

Mark Ellesmere, Northern Ireland Water

Mark Ellesmere joined Water Service Northern Ireland (WSNI) in July 2006 ahead of a radical shake-up of water regulation, which included the statutory transfer of assets from WSNI – an executive agency – to government-owned company Northern Ireland Water, as well as a raft of legislation and the introduction of economic regulation by the regulator for the first time.

Trevor Faure, Tyco

Tyco’s general counsel for Europe, the Middle East and Africa has revolutionised his team in the last three years. Trevor Faure has recruited a whole new team internally and externally and has signed an exclusive deal with Eversheds. Faure invented the groundbreaking Smarter legal model, which has set a template for other in-house counsel to follow.

Miller Mclean, Royal Bank of Scotland

There is little doubt that the £50bn sale of ABN Amro to a consortium led by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was one of the M&A deals of 2007. For RBS general counsel Miller McLean, it was project that required the multijurisdictional marshalling of whole battalions of lawyers from firms such as Linklaters and Shearman & Sterling. The deal’s successful closing is a testament to McLean’s considerable management and legal skills.

Phil Michaels, Friends of the Earth

Champion of the Freedom of Information Act, Friends of the Earth legal chief Phil Michaels has held the Government to account on the occasions it has attempted to shy away from the legislation. In May Michaels won a landmark victory against the Government by forcing it to disclose the previously secret records of lobbying by business group the Confederation of British Industry.

Tracey Wood, Costain

Construction giant Costain set up its first panel of legal advisers this year – a process overseen by legal head Tracey Wood. Despite only taking up the role in 2006, she has already revolutionised Costain’s legal function, trimming the number of firms on its roster to three and publishing risk management guidelines for the management team.

NICHE LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR

BCL Burton Copeland

Given the scope of work it undertakes, it is understandable that BCL Burton Copeland shies away from the limelight. The niche firm specialises in challenging criminal investigations. In the last year it has advised individuals caught up in the ‘loans for peerages’ scandal and successfully defended champion jockey Kieren Fallon from allegations of price-fixing in horse racing.

Gates and Partners

International niche aviation firm Gates & Partners has grown to 10 partners and handles a diverse range of aviation issues, from claims handling for British Airways to aircraft finance and leasing arrangements across Europe and Asia. Managing partner Sean Gates is widely regarded as a global leader in his field and has helped to create a market-leading aviation practice.

Kemp Little

Kemp Little celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. The IT boutique recruited its thirteenth partner as it continues with its aim to be comprehensive around technology. The firm now provides corporate, commercial, IP, employment and competition advice to a stunning client list, which includes Expedia, Microsoft and the London Stock Exchange.

Laura Devine Solicitors

This immigration boutique has been at the forefront of providing insight in the development and awareness of the Government’s Five Year Plan. As well as assisting to shape immigration policy, Laura Devine Solicitors has made innovative strides by establishing a New York office – one of the first UK-based immigration law firms to enter the US market.

Powell Gilbert

Five partners left Bristows to launch Powell Gilbert last year, and their gamble was an instant hit in the world of IP litigation. The partners kept their biggest clients and found themselves winning cases in the House of Lords within eight months of opening.

Sacker & Partners

Pensions specialist Sacker & Partners has achieved the unachievable: it has made pensions law sexy. Having won impressive new clients such as Sea Containers, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Bayer over the past year, the firm also played key roles in settling pensions disputes at Alliance Boots and Sea Containers. Plateau partners at the 50-lawyer firm saw their profit share break the £1m barrier for the first time in 2007.

CHAMBERS OF THE YEAR

Brick Court Chambers

The top barristers at Brick Court have barely spent a moment out of the House of Lords this year. Highlights of the year include the chambers helping to keep Ian Norris in the UK after the US government tried to extradite him and leading Terra Firma’s defence in its court battle against French bank Ixis.

Fountain Court

There is probably not a single big-ticket litigation that Fountain Court is not involved in. Bank charges, Ixis, Rabobank and Springwell are just a few examples of the work this 60-member set has snared. The set’s 22 silks are tied up in proceedings ranging from Buncefield to Tajik Aluminium.

Henderson Chambers

Forward thinking has kept Henderson Chambers in front of its competitors. Its public access offering has drawn in clients, while its mediation company ResoLex has proved successful. The clout of the barristers is also clear, with Henderson advocates appearing in proceedings from the Ladbroke Grove rail inquiry to the MMR litigation.

Maitland Chambers

Groundbreaking thinking has become the backbone of Maitland Chambers, which has seen the set snare cases such as advising the lead hedge fund in Northern Rock. With chief executive Robert Graham-Campbell at the helm, chambers is gearing up for the Legal Services Act and it became the first set to move into third-party litigation funding.

Outer Temple Chambers

This 65-barrister set has proved that innovative ideas can work at the bar. Chambers’ pioneering initiatives have seen Outer Temple become the first set to open an annexe in Abu Dhabi. It has also shown that direct public access can be lucrative, with the set adding more than £500,000 to its turnover within six months of launching.

St Philips Chambers

Birmingham-based set St Philips is a prime example of how chambers outside London can still draw in the top cases. Proof of this is seen in its litigation cases, which include ‘the flying carpet’ case, Operation Barbatus and West Midlands police bringing a claim against Channel 4 for not disclosing unedited tapes ;of ;its ;Dispatches ;programme Undercover Mosque.

BARRISTER OF THE YEAR

Charles Gibson QC, Henderson Chambers

Henderson’s head is not only a heavyweight in the boxing ring in his spare time, but also in the courtroom. This year the leading product liability silk threw punches that saw GlaxoSmithKline win one of the largest group actions against it over the MMR vaccine.

Clare Montgomery QC, Matrix Chambers

Clare Montgomery QC is one of a handful of barristers who actually excel as both a criminal and commercial advocate. This year alone she prosecuted the Metropolitan Police over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes and also appeared before the Commercial Court in the fraud action against the Liberal Democrat donor Michael Brown.

Mark Howard QC, Brick Court Chambers

For the past 12 months Brick Court silk Mark Howard has been a fixture in the Commercial Court. He successfully defended Royal & SunAlliance against an insurance case brought by General Motors and was the counsel to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Barry O’Brien on his disciplinary tribunal following Philip Green’s failed takeover of Marks & Spencer.

Richard Lissack QC, Outer Temple Chambers

The deputy head of Outer Temple continues to show his might as an advocate. He appears regularly in the Privy Council, the US Supreme Court and House of Lords across his specialisms, which include commercial and serious fraud. What makes Richard Lissack stand out, however, is that he was the driving force behind his set becoming the first to launch an office in the Middle East.

Stuart Catchpole QC, 39 Essex Street

If you need a suggestion for a construction silk, the name Stuart Catchpole QC would not be far from anyone’s lips. His reputation has made him the first port of call for the likes of London Underground and Tube Lines in both complex litigation and arbitrations when ten of millions of pounds are at stake.

Tim Ward, Monckton Chambers

Tim Ward has a growing reputation as the leading junior in the fields of public law and competition and it is well deserved. Appearing on more than 30 cases before the European Court of Justice as lead counsel, and being one of the UK Government’s preferred barristers, is a strong testament to this fact.

• For the rest of the awards shortlists, go to www.thelawyer.com/lawyerawards