Firms shortlisted for The Lawyer Awards upped their game in a grim market, with imagination and hard work the watchwords
Each year The Lawyer’s editorial team sifts through the hundreds of entries we receive for the annual The Lawyer Awards in association with Travelers.
For weeks, the identities of those lucky enough to make it through to the shortlist is a closely guarded secret. Today, we reveal who made it.
With the high number of entries, The Lawyer’s team and the excellent judging panel had their work cut out whittling down each category. Hours of research have gone into compiling the shortlist, with our judges imparting the knowledge gained over years working in their fields. The standard of entries this year was exceptional – those making it on to the list are true market-leaders.
The winners will be revealed at a sparkling ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on Tuesday 25 June
Finance Team of the Year
In the current market, the best finance deals are reorganisations that require innovative thinking, and many of the shortlisted transactions this year are likely to provide a roadmap for other deals in the sector. Take Berwin Leighton Paisner, which advised TPG and Patron Capital Opera Finance in relation to the acquisition of the 600m (£500m) loan underlying the first CMBS in Europe. Led by structured finance head Paul Severs and banking partner Lucy Oddy, the transaction was structured as a credit bid that also entailed vendor-financing and involved multiple stakeholders. The deal enabled Uni-Invest to move forward as a properly capitalised business.
CMBS was also flavour of the month at Paul Hastings, where partners Charles Roberts and Conor Downey advised Deutsche Bank on the first euro CMBS since 2007, the 887m Florentia (Vitus) deal.
There was more structured finance wizardry from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which advised RBS on the refinancing of Center Parcs. The £740m whole business securitisation with a £280m high-yield bond necessitated a complex group reorganisation that entailed some hard thinking around the perennial issues of ratings, structure and security.
Norton Rose confirmed its position as a leading firm in Islamic finance when partner Farmida Bi advised longstanding client Gatehouse Bank on its UK real estate-based sukuk – the first sukuk of its kind in the UK.
Slaughter and May partner Guy O’Keefe advised on an entirely new capital structure for energy company Drax plc, requiring £650m of capital investment and preparing the model so it could operate successfully at sub-investment grade.
Latham & Watkins leveraged its deep knowledge of the high-yield market in its role advising Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan on Perstorp’s $1.09bn (£700m) multi-tranche bond issue.
Reed Smith, which advised the trustee on the Perstorp deal, is shortlisted for its work on the £950m refinancing of the Co-operative Group, a debt deal regarded as one of the most complex and strategically important corporate financings of last year. Philip Slater advised the Co-op on the finance package.
Restructuring Team of the Year
Sponsored by Cork Gully
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
There is no doubt that restructuring is the practice area to be in at the moment, and the number and quality of submissions for this category reflected the amount of activity.
The types of restructuring deals are many. Hogan Lovells’ entry focused on the restructuring of environment group AEA in the UK and US, while Clifford Chance’s team advised Travelodge on a restructuring which helped the company avoid administration.
Natural resources was a theme for a number of restructuring teams, such as Nabarro, which acted for UK Coal on its complex restructuring.
Macfarlanes and Allen & Overy also reached the shortlist, for advice to the Four Seasons Health Care Group and a German real estate group respectively.
Burges Salmon worked with the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority on the appointment of an interim contractor to maintain London’s fleet of fire engines at a time when a number of large events were taking place in the city.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton rounds off the shortlist for its work advising Greece on its debt restructuring – a process that has lasted several years.
Competition Team of the Year
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
It’s an interesting time for competition lawyers, something highlighted by former Competition Commission chairman Peter Freeman QC, now one of the chairmen of the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), who argued earlier this year that the law must “get real, get simple, get credible”.
What is certain is that this year’s nominations for the category are not short of real and credible entries, though few of them are simple.
Take Burges Salmon. A team from the firm’s competition group led by Laura Claydon provided long-term strategic advice to municipal operator Cardiff Bus, saving it from a life-threatening ‘follow-on’ competition damages claim.
Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) proved to be no slouch for longstanding client BSkyB either. After an eight-week hearing in 2011, in the summer of 2012 Herbert Smith (now HSF) secured a major victory for the broadcaster, overturning Ofcom’s decision to force Sky to make its Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels available to rivals at prices and on contractual terms set by the regulator, one of the largest appeals to come before the CAT.
Communications was the name of the game at Clifford Chance, which advised Everything Everywhere (EE) on the competition and regulatory aspects of its successful application to become the UK’s first provider of fourth generation (4G) mobile services, while Morrison & Foerster advised on some of the most complex and high profile M&A deals and cartel investigations in Europe. SJ Berwin’s competition team, led by partners Stephen Kon and Philipp Girardet, were instrumental in shaping Universal Music Group’s bid strategy and securing EU and other worldwide regulatory approvals for its £1.2bn acquisition of EMI’s global record business, while Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton was counsel to Google in connection with a variety of antitrust complaints filed with the European Commission.
Wrapping up this outstanding list is Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which won unconditional clearance for the London Stock Exchange Group of its acquisition of a majority stake in LCH.Clearnet through one of the most extensive and rigorous first-phase investigation procedures ever undertaken by the OFT.
Regulatory Team of the Year
Herbert Smith Freehills
Companies are becoming increasingly concerned about regulation, with investigations now common in many fields. In this category a number of sectors were covered by entries and the shortlist.
CMS’s regulatory team advised insurer Reliance Mutual on a capital restructuring in line with a focus on with-profits policies by the FSA.
Financial services regulation also gave Shearman & Sterling a place on the shortlist for its innovative work for over-the-counter operator ICE on the clearing of forward foreign exchange contracts. Similarly, Norton Rose won a shortlist spot for its advice to CME Group on the launch of a new derivatives exchange.
Herbert Smith Freehills’ regulatory entry was more contentious in nature. The firm acted for UBS as KPMG undertook an investigation into rogue trading at the FSA’s behest, amid much media attention.
Lawrence Graham, meanwhile, won a role for the British Bankers’ Association as the regulators turned their attention on the Libor-fixing scandal, with the firm’s regulatory team working closely with its employment and litigation teams.
But regulatory work was not all about financial institutions. Berrymans Lace Mawer defended a plumbing company in a prosecution over alleged carbon monoxide poisoning which followed a two-year investigation by the Health & Safety Executive. And DWF was instructed by retailer Iceland amid the scandal over horsemeat in beef products.
Corporate Finance Team of the Year
Sponsored by Laurence Simons
Despite the tough economic environment, numerous firms secured some major corporate finance mandates, ensuring plenty of choice when selecting this shortlist.
On Telefónica Deutschland’s €6.5bn German IPO CMS led for the telecoms company alongside CMS Hasche Sigle.
Equity capital markets work was also to be found in Turkey, where Chadbourne & Parke advised the Privatisation Administration of the Republic of Turkey on the sale of a 23.9 per cent stake in Türkiye Halk Bankası, the country’s sixth largest bank by total assets. The deal raised $2.5bn and was, according to the firm, the largest-ever offering on the Istanbul Stock Exchange.
Sullivan & Cromwell is shortlisted for its standout European deal, the re-domiciliation and relisting of Coca-Coca Hellenic, the world’s second largest Coca-Cola bottler, while Travers Smith led for CPA Global on its sale last year to private equity group Cinven. The deal involved battling the tough market conditions and managing the fact that CPA has around 50 subsidiaries in more than 15 countries, a task and a half for the largely London-focused Travers Smith.
Clifford Chance makes the cut for its dual role acting for Cinven on two acquisitions: Mercury Pharma, which it bought from Linklaters client HgCapital, and Amdipharm, which it acquired from its founders in one of the largest buyouts of 2012. The two companies were then merged to form the AMco Group. Both deals were signed within a couple of months, with the Amdipharm deal conditional on Mercury being signed. To make matters more curiously complex, neither set of sellers could find out about the other deal, with both committed to a conditional transaction despite not knowing what that deal was.
Kirkland & Ellis’s London private equity team has had a stellar year, advising Vista Equity Partners on its acquisition of software business Troy from Thomson Reuters and its purchase of Swiss-listed Misys. The Troy deal, which was structured in more than 50 jurisdictions, also involved a contract race between two bidders, while Misys was one of the largest take-privates of 2012 and the first sizeable competitive takeover bid since the new Takeover Code came in, during autumn 2011.
M&A Team of the Year
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Slaughter and May
Slaughter and May is shortlisted for an African deal that demonstrates the firm’s reach goes well beyond its traditional City domain. It advised Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production on its takeover of Aim-listed Cove Energy, enabling the client to enter the promising East Africa hydrocarbon province and help Mozambique’s natural gas economy.
Lawrence Graham (LG) acted for Cove, a client since 2009, with corporate head Geoff Gouriet leading alongside partner John Reed and getting onto the shortlist in the process.
Ashurst’s shortlisted deal of 2012 was William Hill and GVC’s joint bid for Sportingbet, with partners Anthony Clare and Jonathan Earle acting for William Hill on the £490m bid, which included a mixture of cash and share consideration.
Linklaters led on one of the standout M&A deals of all time, Glencore International’s $70bn merger with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer client Xstrata, an all-share merger between two FTSE 100 resources giants and the biggest UK public M&A deal by legal fees since the new Takeover Code came in almost two years ago. Linklaters partner Charlie Jacobs led for Glencore, while Freshfields London partners Julian Makin and Piers Prichard Jones led for Xstrata.
Taylor Wessing’s entry was for a complex African mining deal, illustrating the European firm’s footprint on the continent. Partner David Roberts led for Namakwa Diamonds, a publicly listed group, on the restructuring of its mining divisions, including the sale of operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a management buyout team, a debt-equity swap with Jarvirne, which bought the company in July 2012, two credit facilities and the switch from the stock exchange’s main market to Aim.
Norton Rose’s move into South Africa in 2011 paid off with a key mandate from Barclays on its £1.3bn sale of its African operations to South African bank Absa. Clifford Chance advised Barclays on its original investment in Absa in 2005 through its relationship with South African firm Deneys Reitz, which later merged with Norton Rose. Partly thanks to this combination, Norton Rose partner Alan Bainbridge won the role for Barclays on the latest deal.
Employment team of the year
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Leigh Day/Outer Temple Chambers
Wragge & Co
Employment law is in the spotlight at the moment, with pensions reforms and restructurings adding to the usual flow of tribunal cases for businesses and their legal advisers. Entries for the category this year reflect the type of work out there and the shortlisted firms have acted on a range of issues which have a real impact for employees and employers.
The Olympic Games caught everyone’s attention last summer but kept Eversheds’ employment team busy in a different way. The firm was instructed by London’s bus operators to challenge strike ballots by Unite, which sought bonuses for transport workers. Just weeks before the Olympics kicked off, Eversheds brought three successful injunctions against the strikes and a further seven injunction applications led to settlement on the court steps, helping the games to run smoothly.
Fox Williams’ entry focused on a termination dispute. The firm took the case of ex-Société Générale banker Raphael Geys all the way to the Supreme Court and established his right to a termination payment of €12.5m, setting precedent on repudiatory breaches of employment contracts.
Leigh Day and Outer Temple Chambers also submitted a Supreme Court case. Their work for 174 Birmingham City Council employees could influence the fight for equal pay as the Supreme Court ruled that equal pay claims can be brought in the civil courts rather than just the Employment Tribunal – giving claimants a much longer period to bring a claim. Some claimants will win more than £50,000 as a result of the case.
Restructuring was the focus for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, winning a shortlist spot for its advice to the Government on the new shape of Royal Mail – notably its pension scheme. Meanwhile Baker & McKenzie’s work for General Motors, negotiating a collective agreement for the company with trade union Unite, meant the future of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant and thousands of jobs were secured.
Wragge & Co completes the shortlist with its work for supermarket company Morrisons, developing a brand new pension scheme in response to the recent workplace pension reforms.
Infrastructure Projects Team of the Year
Sponsored by Noble Legal
Allen & Overy
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Sullivan & Cromwell
Wragge & Co
In these times of austerity the jury’s out whether the way back to boom is via building, but for the firms in this shortlist bricks and mortar, and plenty more besides, have provided some genuinely groundbreaking instructions.
Pinsent Masons combined with Heathrow Holdings on the high-profile disposal of Edinburgh Airport to Global Infrastructure Partners for £807m.
The London team at US firm Sullivan & Cromwell has played a key role on many of the largest, most complex multi-source international project finance transactions in the natural resources sector, including advising the project company Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) on its multibillion dollar LNG project.
Ashurst’s global infrastructure team has had an exceptionally strong year, with one standout example being its advice to the funders of the Agility trains consortium on the £4.5bn Intercity Express Programme (IEP).
DLA Piper also broke ground in the rail sector, advising the Hitachi Rail Europe and John Laing Investments consortium Agility Trains on the £4.5bn contract to build and maintain the new ‘Super Express’ trains.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer also featured prominently on the IEP, the largest privately financed rolling stock deal in history, advising the Government.
At Wragge & Co it was a different kind of essential infrastructure, though still a multibillion-pound deal, that kept its lawyers busy. The firm advised Amey on a 25-year £2bn highways maintenance and management contract, a vital project for the company and the population in the context of local authority cut-backs and the tough climate in the infrastructure sector.
At Norton Rose it was the firm’s advice to the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) on its first major transactions that secured it a place on the shortlist. A team led by partner Jon Ellis advised on the financing of Dutch pension fund PGGM and Ampere Equity Fund’s interest in Walney offshore wind farm, the first time GIB provided direct lending support to a project financing.
Completing the shortlist is Allen & Overy, which helped develop a new product (‘Pebble’, a platform that allows the funding of greenfield project financing by institutional investors) that facilitates long-term debt. It is a doubly significant initiative at a time when there are serious questions surrounding the capacity of the bank market generally and on long-term lending to projects in particular.
Litigation Team of the Year
Sponsored by Ernst & Young
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
All but one of the litigation teams shortlisted in this category have been instructed on top-level international cases, which brings into focus the fierce competition for work in this arena.
Hogan Lovells has worked for Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank against its former chairman Muktar Ablyazov, who was alleged to have absconded from Kazakhstan after embezzling funds out of the bank. It has been a groundbreaking case, which has so far been in court more than 200 times, included the work of 40 barristers and resulted in 49 reported decisions. So far Hogan Lovells has recovered upward of $2bn and more is on the way.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan also has its share of international work, acting for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in his high-stakes battle with rival Michael Cherney. The case settled just days into the trial. The firm’s biggest win of the year was for businessman Derek Quinlan, who was accused of dishonesty against clients in connection to a case related to the Barclay brothers’ acquisition of the Maybourne Hotel Group. It was a hard-fought battle, but a decisive victory for Quinn Emanuel.
White & Case, meanwhile, earns its nomination for the work it did for Turkey’s largest telecoms company, Cukurova, in its bruising battle with Russia’ Alfa Group. The case concerned share ownership of Turkey’s largest mobile telephone operator, Turkcell.
White & Case secured seven substantive judgments for its client over six years, including judgments from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council.
As the business world gets smaller there is no shortage of litigators attempting to bring jurisdictions closer together. Mayer Brown, which is also nominated, persuaded the Supreme Court that the Australian liquidators of New Cap Reinsurance Corp could enforce a foreign ruling in England, arguing that a universal approach was needed to insolvency matters.
There has been no shortage of jurisdiction battles post-2008 either, but this has been one of the most hard-fought and significant of the past 12 months.
The final firm to be nominated is Eversheds for its outstanding contribution to the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. It was a mammoth task at a significant cost to the taxpayer, but Eversheds helped cut the length of the inquiry by 75 per cent, to be completed with in 12 months instead of four years.
The case involved 37 weeks of public hearings and 352 witness statements taken over that 12-month period – no mean feat. The firm has created a smart model for all public inquiries, something that is sure to save taxpayers money in the future.
Pinsent Masons’ work for Willbros in defence of a claim against it by the West African Gas Pipeline Project Company (WAPCo) has proven exemplary. The firm managed to persuade the court to down the value of the case from $320m to $50m while also setting the standard for e-disclosure in global battles. In total, the firm processed 3.2 million documents in under four months, proving how disclosure can be the best cost saving measure.
Burges Salmon picks up a nomination for its Eurostar work during the company’s procurement battle with Alstom over its rolling stock. The firm set up a case management team and knocked out a series of highly charged cases against Eurostar, creating new case law in the specialist area of public procurement and eventually forcing the case to be dropped.
Private Wealth Team of the Year
Baker & McKenzie
Maurice Turnor Gardner
The private wealth market has experienced a new dynamic in flows of capital, particularly through the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Baker & McKenzie’s multi-jurisdictional private wealth practice, whose new offices in Istanbul and Casablanca added to its international portfolio, had a year dominated by cross-border asset-tracing and freezing orders, but non-contentious work also included using bilateral investment treaties as part of a corporate restructuring for a wealthy family.
Maurice Turnor Gardner’s standout mandate involved advising an ultra-high-net-worth European family on establishing a discreet and tax-efficient Jersey-based structure, in the face of forced heirship issues, which required both private client and partnership law expertise.
In similar vein, Withers is shortlisted for its work on the estate of venture capitalist Nigel Doughty following his unexpected death in February 2012 and whose interests included Nottingham Forest FC and his own philanthropic foundation.
Field Fisher Waterhouse advised a major bank on an art finance deal that gave rise to complex title issues around the art itself and also entailed a corporate reorganisation, while Burges Salmon had a distinctly French accent to its work this year, with partner Beatrice Puoti helping clients through the new French taxation law for trusts, which imposes a duty to reveal the value of trust assets and declare when a trust has a connection with France.
On the matrimonial law side Farrer & Co’s Jeremy Posnansky QC, the firm’s in-house advocate, led on Petrodel Resources Ltd & Ors v Prest, heard in the Supreme Court earlier this year. The dispute, a complex interplay of matrimonial and company law, has implications for divorcing couples whose assets are held in company and trust structures.
Lastly, a Pinsent Masons team led by partner Michael Pulford worked with litigation funder Novitas in acting for Saudi businessman Adnan Sharbatly against his former wife in a high-profile jurisdictional case that narrowed the criteria for launching secondary financial proceedings following divorce.
Real Estate Team of the Year
Davitt Jones Bould
Wragge & Co
Times may be hard and margins may be tiny but there were still some monumental deals to be had last year. In media circles the move of the BBC from its world-famous Television Centre in London’s White City was one of the biggest developments in years. It was also big news in real estate circles, with Hogan Lovells advising the broadcaster on the £200m sale to a consortium led by developer Stanhope.
Trowers & Hamlins, known for its social housing practice, advised longstanding client Aviva Investors’ REaLM Fund on its investment of £25m into 411 units of tenanted social housing last year. The innovative lease and lease-back structure was designed to provide secure, inflation-linked income streams and is expected to be rolled out to o