City-based firm Harris Hagan is the first UK law firm dedicated specifically to providing legal advice in all areas of the gaming industry in the UK and overseas.
“Hence our ability to attract work from other City firms that have clients who need help without any fear on their part of us trying to steal their corporate work, property work or whatever,” comments senior partner Julian Harris, who along with managing partner John Hagan set up the practice in April 2004.
Both lawyers came from Pinsent Masons, and before that Biddle & Co, but decided to break away from the firm to focus on their specialist area in licensing law.
“Our area of work is highly specialised and it was quite easy for us to become slightly lost in an enormous firm,” says Harris. “Of course, it also meant that Pinsents wouldn’t be able to attract this specialist work from other firms that didn’t have that capability.”
They decided to leave with “the consent” of Pinsents as well as their clients on the basis that the new practice would be available to their old firm to fulfil its “licensing and gaming needs”.
“Along with those of other firms hopefully,” adds Harris.
Fours months after the niche firm was established, Elizabeth Southorn joined the team from Richards Butler, where she led the licensing department.
“They’re the gaming and casino law experts, and I do the liquor licensing and betting side,” she explains. “We appeal to the magic circle and the major City law firms that don’t do this work and that can pass on their big clients to us, knowing they get them back without us poaching them for other work.” All of her clients also followed her from her old firm. The formation of Harris Hagan also coincides with the UK’s wholesale reform of its outdated gambling laws.
“Obviously, to a certain extent, we were in the right place at the right time,” says Harris. “It’s producing a huge amount of work, not only in terms of what the new Gambling Act will require of people already in the industry and those coming into the industry, but also the flood of work under the old legislation.”
While the firm is a specialist outfit, it is also looking to grow in numbers.
“We want to grow and we need to grow. We’re on the lookout for high-quality licensing lawyers, but it isn’t easy because it’s such a narrow field,” says Harrison.
Senior partner: Julian Harris
Total number of fee-earners: Seven
Main practice areas: Gambling, leisure law
Key clients: Coral Bookmakers, Conran Restaurants, Royal Opera House, Diageo, Marriott Hotels, Stanley Casinos, Kerzner International
Number of offices: One
Location: City of London