For some firms the litigation surge has provided the opportunity to reposition in the market. Recognising Travers Smith’s ability to do just that, last night The Lawyerawarded the firm the Litigation Team of the Year gong at its annual awards ceremony.
For too long this small but perfectly formed team has been perceived as the poor relation of its corporate counterpart at the firm. However, with just six partners the firm punches well above its weight.
Back in 2008 with the economic downturn looming large the firm made a strategic decision to invest in its dispute resolution practice. Central to that strategy was the choice to act for and against banks, a strategic risk that has since paid off.
Around the same time the firm brought in a trio of senior associates: Caroline Edwards from Slaughter and May and Rob Fell and Toby Robinson from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. All three have since been promoted into the partnership in recognition of their ability to bring in the cases.
The firm’s client list includes Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander (both of which use partner Stephen Paget-Brown as their go-to litigator); Russian oil company Rosneft; Nomura; and Madame Tussauds owner Merlin Entertainments.
On the other side of the banking fence, partner Jonathan Leslie, who was appointed head of litigation in 2007, is acting for Sebastian Holdings in a £2bn claim against Deutsche Bank.
Leslie says because the practice has focused on its wider core practice of corporate, finance and financial services it has evolved into a “highly effective, efficient and versatile force”.
He continues: “Our work has tended more and more to be at the top-end of banking and financial services and capital markets litigation, both for and against some of the very largest institutions.
“Our size allows us to handle major work, and at the same time gives us the flexibility and freedom from internal procedures to respond rapidly to the needs of our clients and the demands of their cases.”
In June 2010 the firm helped define the law on misrepresentation after Paget Brown successfully defended RBS from a £10m claim from Raifeisen Zentralbank Österreich (RZB).
This claim, although relatively small in financial terms, had huge implications for the bank at home and abroad.
The bank had recently been rescued by the taxpayer, making it the baddie of the high street in the UK. While in the US the case was connected to a high-profile multi-billion dollar class action against the bank and the defence of the case in the commercial court would have implications for matters in the US.
As RBS litigation counsel William Luker states: “At the time Enron was the most significant litigation the bank had ever faced and successful defence of the RZB case was hugely important in the context of our defence strategy overall.”
According to The Lawyer Awardsjudges, the defence was “masterful work” with one judge commenting: “This was a hugely complex piece of litigation arising from the Enron collapse. The size of the disclosure, 400,000 pages, is an indication of its complexity.”
There is no doubt Travers Smith is punching well above its weight in litigation circles and it will be giving larger groups some food for thought.