Rabinowitz, Hapgood and Milligan square up for Equitable hostilities

The Equitable Life trial is a week old today (18 April) and those packing out Court 76 have settled down for the months of hearings ahead.

The opening statements are almost complete, although Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Hapgood QC is still to speak for Ernst & Young to defend the negligence and breach of duty claim.

The cast list is impressive: Herbert Smith instructing Iain Milligan QC of 20 Essex Street and 4 Stone Buildings’ Robert Miles QC for Equitable; Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) instructing Hapgood and Allen & Overy(A&O) instructing One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC for six former non-executive directors; and a host of firms and barristers are acting for the rest of the individual defendants.

Almost all the silks involved earn in excess of £1m a year, Milligan topping the list with his annual earnings pushing £2m. Rabinowitz, who as the bar’s leading commercial junior was famously overlooked for silk until finally being made up in 2002, is one of a tiny minority of barristers to have broken £1m in earnings while still a junior.

Relationships between the firms and counsel vary, with some working together on a series of high-profile cases and others quietly liaising in the background, ready for a big trial such as Equitable.

One such partnership is the A&O-Rabinowitz team. Although online legal information provider Lawtel reports only one case – Kuwait Oil Tanker Co/Sitka Shipping v Hassan Ali Hassan Qabazard & UBS – on which Rabinowitz was instructed by the firm, A&O says that it has used him on many occasions.

Tim House, the A&O partner who is leading the Equitable work, adds: “He’s one of the best, and if you saw him in court on Wednesday you’d know why we used him.”

BLG, meanwhile, has worked with Hapgood on three reported cases according to Lawtel, notably Elton John & ors v Pricewater-houseCoopers & ors in 2002. The team won at appeal stage, when Elton John’s case was rejected.

Herbert Smith has been instructing Miles for more than a decade, while the earliest case involving Milligan was Borealis v Star Gas & ors, which was heard in the Court of Appeal in July 1998.

Milligan has led Miles on one case – Barclays Mercan-tile Business Finance v John Mawson (HMIT) – for Herbert Smith prior to Equitable.

Herbert Smith was acting for the Irish Gas Board, which was not involved when the case went to the House of Lords. So, apparently on a recommendation from the firm, Milligan was instructed by Denton Wilde Sapte, Barclays’ lead solicitors, which won the case.

 Who’s acting for whom?
For Equitable Life:Julian Copeman, Charles Plant (Herbert Smith); Iain Milligan QC, Guy Morpuss (20 Essex Street), Robert Miles QC (4 Stone Buildings).

For Ernst & Young:Clare Canning (Barlow Lyde & Gilbert); Mark Hapgood QC (Brick Court), Jon-athan Gaisman QC, James Brock-lebank (7 King’s Bench Walk), Cyril Kinsky (3 Verulam Buildings).

For six non-executive directors:Tim House (Allen & Overy); Laurence Rabinowitz QC (One Essex Court), Richard Handyside (Fountain Court).

For executive director Alan Nash: Andrew Davis (Fishburns); Simon Adamyk (New Square).

For executive directors Roger Bowley and David Thomas: Gavin Foggo (Fox Williams); Christopher Symons QC, Sonia Tolaney (3 Verulam Buildings).

For executive director Shaun Kinnis:David Rutter (Metcalfe Copeman & Pettefar); Mary Stokes (Erskine).

For non-executive director Jennifer Paige:Philip Vaughan (Simmons & Simmons); Peter Leaver QC (One Essex Court).

For executive director Roy Ranson: David Fraser (Baker & McKenzie); David Mumford (Maitland).

For non-executive director David Wilson: Bob Deering (Ince & Co); Jules Sher QC, Rupert Reed (Wilberforce).

Christopher Heddon (an exec-utive) and Peter Martin (a non-executive) are litigants-in-person.