Garretts to set up litigation department

Garrett & Co, the law firm allied to accountancy giant Arthur Andersen, hopes to establish a litigation department in London as part of an ambitious expansion programme to boost fee income.

Julia Chain, managing partner at Garretts, said setting up a litigation unit would complement the firm's company and commercial division in the capital where new business has grown rapidly.

She said Garretts plans “aggressive growth” in London and at its provincial offices in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Reading.

A new office is also due to open in Cambridge.

Chain said expansion would probably come from poaching talent from rival firms rather than through mergers. She revealed Garretts is talking to several senior lawyers from other practices as part of a recruitment drive pitched at partner level.

But the firm has also lost people to rivals. In May, two partners left the Leeds office to join Hammond Suddards. One of them, Richard James, is suing Garretts for failing to make a payment he claims is due under the terms of an agreement reached when he left. Garretts is defending the action which centres on James' claim that he is entitled to £14,000 because he kept an agreement by not taking a full-time legal job before 30 April 1996. This is disputed by Garretts.

The firm was set up in 1993 as a law firm allied to Arthur Andersen, although about 50 per cent of its client base has been built up independently of referrals from the accountants.

The firm has grown from three partners in its first year of operation to a 100-lawyer practice with 35 partners.

It claims its association with Arthur Andersen enables it to provide “co-ordinated multi-disciplinary advice to clients” on a variety of issues.