Eddie Redmayne is to play the name partner of the white-shoe law firm Cravath Swaine & Moore in his next film.

The Last Days of Night, based on the book by Graham Moore, is about the intellectual property battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over the electric lightbulb.

Edison sued Westinghouse for patent violation to the tune of $1bn; in response, Westinghouse hired 26-year-old Columbia Law School graduate Paul Drennan Cravath to represent him.

Redmayne has signed on to play Cravath in the film.

Speaking to the website NPR, Moore, who has also written the film’s screenplay explained his motivation for putting the lawyer at the centre of the story. “Paul is 18 months out of Columbia Law School in New York,” he said. “He has never really had a client before, much less tried a case. And now he’s the lead litigator on this unfathomably large lawsuit. He’s in way over his head, and this kind of opened up the whole story for me.

“What if we tell the story of kind of the great scientific rivalry of the 19th century, all from the perspective of this earnest, ambitious, hungry young attorney who’s just moved to New York to make good?”

Filming is set to start in the UK in January 2017. Redmayne is set to appear before then as Newt Scamander in the new JK Rowling film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Cravath Swaine & Moore does not have a large UK presence but is one of the USA’s oldest and most prestigious firms. Its influence is far reaching: when in increased salaries earlier this year, lawyers at many US firms in London got bumper pay rises as a result.