Hot 100: Karyl Nairn, Skadden Arps

It was, without any doubt or hyperbole, one of the biggest and most dramatic cases of recent years. Roman Abramovich’s titanic $6bn (£3.8bn) battle of the oligarchs against Boris Berezovsky was always going to be a headline-generator.


For Skadden partner Karyl Nairn, who represented the Chelsea FC owner, it was “the full package – it had everything”.

Unlike many of Nairn’s cases, this mega-spat was heard in public. Very public, in fact, thanks primarily to Berezovsky’s determination to have his day in court. The irony is that this desire to be cross-examined – by none other than Jonathan Sumption QC – ended up effectively killing his case. Mrs Justice Gloster slammed Berezovsky’s performance, calling him “an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept”.

Nairn says the case symbolises why the British justice system works. “By being in the witness box you show who you really are,” she says. “Something mysterious happens.”

Nairn and her team’s contribution to British justice’s ability to create order out of chaos and then impose a legal solution on it cannot be underestimated.

“The case began in 2007 and from January 2012 we were working 100-hour weeks,” recalls Nairn. “It was exhausting for us and for the client as well. But it was very exciting to get the judgment and see that we’d been completely vindicated.”