When they quit Baker & McKenzie in 2004 to launch litigation boutique Masseys, Gerald Cooke, Sean Upson and Jane Colston knew they were taking a risk. Less than four years later the firm has built a strong reputation among its London peers for its litigation expertise. It regularly picks up referrals from City firms, foreign firms and barristers.
“We were fortunate that, when we left Baker & McKenzie, Sean brought a big Samsung arbitration case with him, so we were working as hard as we could from day one,” recalls Colston. “Since then we’ve just been extremely busy.”
Upson says the firm’s main strength is that it is not conflicted with its referrers. “Because we don’t have a corporate or property practice, and because they want a safe pair of hands, they come to us because we’re not conflicted,” he says.
In the past year Masseys has increased its international presence, picking up referrals from US and Canadian firms.
Masseys is divided into four litigation focus areas, with each partner leading their own practice area. Colston covers fraud and shareholder disputes; Upson focuses on property and trade litigation; Cooke’s remit is trade disputes; and Philip Young, who joined the firm last year from Baker & McKenzie, focuses on banking disputes.
“We’ve been counting up our cases for the year and have at least four cases against the banks. We’re recognised as one of the firms that will take on the banks,” says Colston. “There’s definitely been an increase in shareholder disputes and joint venture disputes. There’s also work coming from hedge fund disputes against the banks.”
Masseys’ major challenge now is to source the partners to service its growing workload.
“We know we’re not the right fit for everybody, but we do need more people,” Upson says. “When hiring we rely on hearing of likeminded people.”
Management team (l-r): Jane Colston, Sean Upson, Gerald Cooke and Philip Young (not pictured)Turnover: £3.8m
Number of partners: Four
Number of staff: 11
Number of fee-earners: 11
Key clients: Balli Group, Borders (UK), ICC Industries, Samsung
Number of offices: One