Boutique shipping law outfit Campbell Johnston Clark recently celebrated its one-year anniversary following its launch in autumn 2010.
Launched by former Holman Fenwick Willan equity partners Jonathan Campbell, Alistair Johnston and Julian Clark, the firm now boasts five partners, 21 fee-earners and a consultant.
On the trio’s motivation for launching the firm, Clark says: “There were a number of reasons. The three of us, with an entrepreneurial spirit, wanted to see if it could be done. We had a real belief there was a gap in the market. There hadn’t been a serious breakaway. The people who tend to split off are the dry litigators. We hit the ground running with a casualty and dry litigation practice. What really makes us unique is that we opened with a full-on transactional practice. I don’t think any shipping firms have done all three.”
The firm’s casualty capabilities quickly led to it becoming a go-to adviser for international crises. The firm was involved in the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan and cases relating to trade sanctions in Libya.
Some 70 per cent of clients are shipowners, while 30 per cent are finance providers. Keen to work more like a legal department than an external firm, the boutique does not have target hours for fee-earners.
“It’s not the way we work,” says Clark. “Don’t worry about thinking, ‘Oh, that took me 10 hours. I should have done it quicker’. Let us judge that.”
With an eventual target size of 10-15 partners and 20-30 assistants, the firm already has plans to set sail on international seas and open up abroad.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we were talking this time next year and we’d opened our first international office,” adds Clark. “I think the money’s on the Far East. Possibly Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore.”
Firm: Campbell Johnston Clark
Managing partners (l-r):Jonathan Campbell, Alistair Johnston, Julian Clark
Number of partners:Five
Number of lawyers:Eight
Number of fee-earners:21
Number of offices:One
Main practice areas:Commercial shipping, private equity, ship finance, marine insurance, marine casualties, shipping contracts and litigation, arbitration
Key clients: Gard P&I, Credit Suisse, Sanko