One amazing client

Vincent Denham says stringent quality assurance tests are needed to assess legal service delivery

It is not yet certain whether posterity will smile upon Simmons & Simmons for having urged the survival of the Dome, but the firm’s insolvency team is certainly happy. Their role is now central to one of the biggest political rows for years, and from a second-tier position (at best) in this field, the firm is now being described by The Times as “the insolvency specialist”.

It is also an object lesson in accidental branding. Those firms with rafts of insolvency lawyers – such as Clifford Chance, DLA, CMS Cameron McKenna, Denton Wilde Sapte or Lovells, to name the obvious candidates – never got a look-in. This is not to say that the small but energetic Simmons team has much hope of rivalling the more established insolvency and restructuring players; its institutional relationships with the UK clearing banks are simply not strong enough. But it may well get a number of other insolvency and restructuring jobs on the back of the press coverage alone.

For Simmons’ involvement in the Dome shows the importance of getting your name into the general commercial arena. The New Millennium Experience Company did not beauty parade specialist insolvency lawyers. BA’s Bob Ayling knew Simmons partly through employment partner Janet Gaymer, who would advise him on his departure from BA.

Gaymer has a track record in snaring corporate clients for the firm; she landed Railtrack for Simmons some years ago, with subsequent fees of millions when Simmons advised on rail privatisation. It was Ayling’s relationship with Gaymer and with senior partner Bill Knight which led to Simmons’ involvement on the Dome. One amazing piece of cross-selling.