Simmons finds allies in the US

Simmons finds allies in the US
simmons & SimmonsLitigation group buddies up with firms statesideThe London litigation group at Simmons & Simmons is looking to broaden its US referral network following a beefing up of the corporate crime team at the City firm.

According to Simmons litigation partner Nick Benwell, the firm is hoping to market itself as a one-stop shop for US-related multijurisdictional matters.

“We’re looking to plug the gap for US firms,” says Benwell. “In fact, we’re moving to a US model.”

Unlike many of their UK rivals, corporate crime is increasingly a key part of the work carried out by the litigation departments in the largest US firms. The principal areas include corruption, competition investigations, financial services regulatory investigations (including insider dealing and market abuse), fraud (including tax fraud), money laundering and extradition.

As Benwell points out, there is often no real divide between criminal and civil fraud. Consequently, firms looking to advise on fraud cases need to be familiar with both systems.

“Depending on the case and the jurisdiction, you may need to use elements of the criminal process and elements of the civil process,” adds Benwell. “For example, we’re currently working on a multijurisdictional fraud where we’re using the criminal process in some jurisdictions and the civil in others.

“There are also overarching money-laundering issues. So it’s not that we’re targeting criminal rather than civil fraud, but that it’s now increasingly difficult to disentangle civil from criminal.”

Simmons has around 170 litigators across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Recently it has been investing particularly in growing its corporate crime capabilities to capitalise on a legislative shift that has seen criminal laws introduced into a business context.

The development in the group’s strategy follows a period of significant recruitment into Simmons’ litigation group. In particular, the hire of former Peters & Peters partner Louise Delahunty 18 months ago was a major catalyst.

It was followed more recently by the arrival of Peters & Peters associate Cherie Spinks and criminal barrister Ruth Davis from VB Chambers as a dedicated crime professional support lawyer.

In addition, members of the Simmons litigation team have been more frequent visitors to the US in an effort to raise the firm’s profile stateside. Last month, for example, Benwell was in New York speaking on criminalisation trends across Europe, the Middle East and Asia and the effects on US business.

The marketing efforts appear to be paying off. Simmons now has a growing roster of key US relationship firms in this area, with names including Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, Dechert, McKenna Long & Aldridge, Proskauer Rose, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Miller & Chevalier.

Dechert New York litigation partner Andrew Levander confirms that Simmons has become more visible in US litigation circles and says Dechert is currently “working on a matter” with the firm.

Over at Cadwalader, fraud litigator and Washington DC office head Ray Banoun echoes Levander, claiming he “seen [Simmons] around a bit more”.

“I’ve seen them on business fraud cases and they’ve worked with us in return,” adds Banoun. “It just used to be Peters & Peters you’d see at events like the American Bar Association’s white-collar crime conference. [Peters & Peters consultant] Monty Raphael had cornered the US market for the past 15 or more years. But Simmons have been there this year and last. We do a lot of work in Europe and they’ve realised there’s great potential there.”

With Benwell claiming that his team is currently “actively recruiting”, Simmons looks increasingly well positioned to tap into that US potential.disabled sprinter is no ‘cheetah’, dewey tells IAAFDewey & LeBoeuf US litigation partner Jeff Kessler was in Switzerland last week completing two days of a potentially landmark arbitration on behalf of double amputee and Olympic hopeful Oscar Pistorius.

Kessler and his team, which includes partners Marco Consonni and Bruno Gattai from Italy and David Feher from the US, have been representing Pistorius since reading of his disqualification from all International Association of Athletics Federations-sanctioned (IAAF) events earlier this year.

“I read about Oscar’s plight when he was disqualified and we reached out to him,” Kessler said last Wednesday (30 April). “It was a unique situation for us. We have one of the leading sports practices, we have a very large international arbitration practice and we have offices in South Africa. Putting all the pieces together, it seemed like an ideal situation to help Oscar and hopefully many other disabled athletes.”

Pistorius, 21, is a South African sprinter who was born without fibula bones in both his legs due to a congenital condition. Aged 11 months he had both of his legs amputated below the knee.

In spite of this, since 2004 he has pursued an athletic career at an elite level, using artificial limbs manufactured by the Icelandic company Ossur and competing in both paralympic and able-bodied events, including the 100m and 400m.

But on 16 January 2008 the IAAF ruled that Pistorius would not be eligible to compete in IAAF-sanctioned events, concluding that he was gaining a technical advantage from his use of Ossur’s Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthetic limb.

Last week Pistorius took his case to Lausanne with the help of Dewey, arguing that his prosthetics do not provide him with an advantage over other athletes and that the IAAF decision was based on inadequate testing.

“Oscar’s very happy to finally have had his case heard by the tribunal,” said Kessler. “He believes the panel will be just and fair and we hope to have a decision quickly.”

It is thought a decision is likely by the end of this week. In the meantime, the blogK&L flashes its own cash in CharlotteNew York probably doesn’t have to worry too much yet, but Charlotte is on the map now in a way it wasn’t before.

The second-largest financial centre in the US is getting a reputation as the destination du jour for the world’s more ambitious law firms.

On Thursday (1 May), K&L Gates unveiled its latest acquisition (sorry, merger candidate): Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman. By 1 July K&L should be a 1,700-lawyer firm with 28 offices across the US, Europe and Asia.

What’s more, the debt-free firm is doing it all out of its own pocket. True, that drives down PEP, but for the benefit of the more short-sighted members of the legal market, that’s known as ‘investment’.

For Kennedy Covington, the reality is that it has already been the target of bigger legal market fish, such as Alston & Bird and King & Spalding, both of which have snared partners from the North Carolina firm recently.

Faced with the prospect of shedding more talent to marauding heavyweights Kennedy Covington opted for plan B: merger.

Managing partner Eugene Pridgen said: “The proposed combination would create a global platform and enable