SJ Berwin hit by double disputes exit to US firms

SJ Berwin is set to lose disputes partners Tim Beale and Justin Michaelson in a double London raid by two US firms.

Tim Beale
Tim Beale

Beale, a specialist in commercial litigation and fraud, is heading for Reed Smith, following SJ Berwin corporate partner Perry Yam, who quit for the US firm’s City base just over a year after his unsuccessful managing partner election campaign (14 December 2011).

Michaelson, who heads the firm’s London international arbitration practice, has resigned to join Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson. He joined SJ Berwin in 2007 from Weil Gotshal & Manges, where he was a senior associate (1 May 2007).

The departures follow the exit of another contentious partner at the firm, competition litigator Lesley Farrell, who is leaving to join Eversheds (4 September 2012). Beale and Farrell were both members of an SJ Berwin focus group aimed at corporate investigations work (21 June 2010).

Michaelson recently successfully defended Marshall Capital Holdings against allegations that it participated in fraudulent conspiracy in the landmark Nutritrek case in relation to the so-called corporate veil (20 June 2012). He acted for LV Finance Group in the long-running MegaFon dispute which settled in 2007 and, along with Fried Frank London partners Nick Cherryman and James Kitching, has spent time at the bar.

His role as City international arbitration head is not a formal position, with Dubai and London-based disputes partner Tim Taylor QC, who heads the arbitration practice globally, set to continue in overall charge of the group.

Reed Smith European and Middle East commercial disputes head Richard Spafford commented: ‘[Beale’s] experience in running complex cross-border commercial litigation will make him a strong addition to the Reed Smith disputes team.”

Fried Frank litigation chair William McGuinness told The Lawyer: “We’re very excited to get someone of Justin’s stature and reputation and his skill set matches our strategy of building out our international disputes practice.”

An SJ Berwin spokesperson said in a statement: “We thank Justin and Tim for their contributions and wish them both every success for the future.”

The exits echo the resignations of City private equity funds duo Nigel van Zyl and Oliver Rochman last summer to join US firm Proskauer Rose, with which the UK firm had broken off merger talks around a year before (27 July 2011).