Abell brings in Herbies as FFW dispute escalates

Ex-Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) IP and IT head Mark Abell has hired Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) in a partnership dispute with his former firm.

Mark Abell
Mark Abell

HSF litigation partner Alan Watts has been instructed to advise Abell, while FFW has turned to Winckworth Sherwood partner Jo Keddie.

Counsel on both sides were instructed ahead of news earlier this month that Abell, one of FFW’s most influential figures, had been suspended from the partnership and was set to join Bird & Bird (1 February 2013).

However, it has emerged that no final agreement has been struck to clinch Abell’s move to Bird & Bird, with a spokesperson for the firm today (19 February) declining to confirm his appointment, over two weeks after news of his move broke.

Abell claimed he had been “ambushed” in a meeting of FFW’s supervisory board and executive committee last month after expecting a “convivial and amiable exit”.

It is currently unclear whether the dispute will lead to litigation. The details of allegations made by FFW against Abell are unconfirmed, although sources close to the dispute suggest it is likely to involve an alleged breach of the firm’s partnership agreement.

Keddie, who joined Winckworth Sherwood from Dawsons (now Penningtons) in 2010, is a longstanding adviser to FFW, acting for the firm in its dispute with former partner John Olsen in 2008 over alleged harassment and age discrimination (15 September 2008).

Legacy Herbert Smith also has longstanding ties to FFW and Abell.

FFW, HSF and Winckworth Sherwood declined to comment. Abell was unavailable for comment.