Stephenson Harwood eyes Paris disputes launch

Stephenson Harwood is planning to launch a disputes practice in Paris as the UK firm looks to broaden its offering in the French capital, where it currently only carries out transactional work.

The move comes amid wider attempts by the firm to expand its international arbitration practice globally, with preparations underway to launch an offering in Dubai and expand its shipping arbitration practice in Singapore.

London-based commercial litigation head John Fordham and international arbitration chief Louis Flannery are leading the recent initiative with support from City disputes partner Paolo Ghirardani.

The team is in talks over potential hires in the French arbitration hub, with the firm planning to take on a small band of international arbitration lawyers from either the UK or France and aiming to expand once a core team is on the ground. The office currently focuses on banking and corporate work.

Stephenson Harwood is also working to expand its Singapore arbitration base, where it currently carries out offshore maritime arbitration work, for which no local practice licence is required. The firm has applied for a licence to practise local law in the city-state.

Separately, the City firm is planning to open an arbitration base in Dubai as part of its launch in the Middle East hub (23 April 2012).

It follows the recruitment of Reed Smith arbitration partner Shai Wade, who formally joined the firm’s City headquarters this week (1 October) as the latest in a string of arbitration hires by London firms (27 September 2012).

Fordham commented: “The plan [for Paris] is not at the moment to have people who would do French litigation. It is an extension of the developing arbitration practice. We are on the lookout for somebody who would complement Louis, Shai and [arbitration partner] Kamal [Shah] in London.

“And it’s in parallel – we’ve already got a litigation team that does arbitration in Hong Kong where, like London, we’re full-service. It comes from the centre – the centre would like to have a worldwide international arbitration capability and we’ve got that in London and Hong Kong, but it would be good to add to it in Singapore and Paris.”

The firm’s global disputes practice produced 45 per cent of firmwide turnover in 2011-12, representing £49.6m for the group, 6 per cent up on £47m in 2010-11.