Richards Butler in bid for magic circle litigation conflicts

Richards Butler is dramatically repositioning itself as a litigation referral practice to take advantage of top firms’ conflicts in the City.

While revenues across the firm have risen by 7 per cent to £91m, for the second year in a row revenues in the firm’s disputes practice have risen by 20 per cent, placing it among the top 10 litigation practices in the UK.

During the last year the commercial disputes team (including the firm’s shipping, international trade and insurance practices) has increased its share of the firm’s profits from 52 per cent to 60 per cent (£54.6m) of turnover.

“We don’t have the scale of banking practice of some other firms who may have the potential for conflicts,” said managing partner Roger Parker. “Herbert Smith and the magic circle have a linkage to their corporate client base.”

Although Richards Butler does not have the banking practice of these firms, banks and financial institutions account for 16 per cent of its London billings, due mainly to the litigation department’s strength in this sector.

Other core strengths for litigation include media, professional negligence and employment. The firm’s media capability is traditionally strong and this is one area in which the firm does benefit from a strong corporate presence. Clients in the media, entertainment, sports and leisure industry account for 21 per cent of the total billings.

This growth has come organically, but now the firm is set to embark on a recruitment drive of litigators.

“The dangers in the market for ill-defined law firms are manifest. If there’s a lack of precision it will make it difficult for the management and the partners,” said Parker.

“It’s important for firms to recognise the strengths and competitive advantages that they have, be they in litigation or corporate, and focus accordingly.”

The firm recently advised the Co-operative Group on its case against Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, which settled on 9 May.