The Lawyer Awards 2014 shortlist: Final curtain call

After a memorable 12 months, marked by exceptional work, The Lawyer Awards promise to be more hard-fought than ever

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Each year The Lawyer’s editorial team sifts through the hundreds of entries we receive for the annual The Lawyer Awards in association with Travelers.

With the high number of entries, the stellar judging panel had their work cut out whittling down each category. Hours of research have gone into compiling the shortlist, with our judges imparting the knowledge gained over years working in their fields. The standard of entries this year was exceptional – those making it on to the list are true market leaders.

The winners will be revealed at a sparkling ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on 25 June.

The Law Firm of the Year award is the big one, the prize that every firm hopes to win. And this year the shortlist is a collection of real heavy-weights.


RPC , last year’s runner-up in this category, has seen a 12-month period that not only consolidated its achievements of 2012 but also outstripped that performance. Innovations in pricing and client service, a sharp sector focus and a number of major transactional and litigation matters all contributed to a 15 per cent growth in profit last year and RPC’s notable 34 per cent margin. 

Meanwhile, Slater & Gordon ’s aim is to become the independent provider of legal services to everyday people in the UK. Off the back of an aggressive expansion plan fuelled by acquisitions, the UK’s first listed law firm appears well on the way to achieving its target.

Few firms have fulfilled their promise or promises as successfully as Mishcon de Reya . Since 2009, it has achieved a 75 per cent growth in revenue as its strategy of building on its private client roots has borne fruit. Notably, as personal and business concerns increasingly overlap, Mishcon has reflected this nexus with a series of innovative service and product launches that combine legal, business, brand and communications advice.

DWF ’s corporate structure, headed by visionary managing partner Andrew Leaitherland, has seen it grow from a £34m business in 2006 to one with revenue in excess of £200m. In the past year in particular it has seen tremendous growth, with four strategic mergers (with Crutes, Buller Jeffries, Biggart Baillie, and Fishburns ) and the acquisition of £42m-turnover firm Cobbetts in a pre-pack administration deal.

The past 18 months have also been truly remarkable for Pinsent Masons . In that time, we’ve seen the merger with McGrigors; launches in Paris and Munich, and international expansion into Istanbul; a doubling of the size of its team in Shanghai; and a comprehensive programme of lateral hires, with more than 40 partners joining the firm in the past financial year. But innovation in client service is the area where Pinsents has made the most significant strides over the past 12 months, highlighted by its appointment in January 2013 as sole adviser to Balfour Beatty for a broad range of legal services.

In contrast to some of the firms in this category, Macfarlanes has long been notable for its strategy of cautious growth. Last year, though, it grew by more than 10 per cent both in revenue and headcount as it rebalanced its practice, refined its international proposition and capitalised on specialist market opportunities with a series of notable hires.

Transformation can also be seen at Clyde & Co . Gone are the days when it could simply be described as an insurance and marine firm. Its dogged pursuit of excellence along with growth in its core sectors of transportation, trade and commodities, energy, insurance and infrastructure have raised it to a new level, while last year’s 17 per cent increase in income to £336m confirmed it as one of the UK’s leading law firms.

In-house Lawyer of the Year

Thomas Brown, PayPal UK

Jeremy Cross, Anesco

Michael Ellis , Abercrombie & Kent

Sarah Nelson Smith, Yum!

Ijeoma Okoli, Lloyds Banking Group

Nicola Shand, Scotia Gas Networks

Ben Watts, Kent Legal Services 

The scuffle for In-house Lawyer of the Year is always hard-fought and this year is no different, with the number and quality of submissions reflecting a busy year for people in this category.

There are a number of reasons why Yum! legal director Sarah Nelson Smith has made the cut. She is not afraid to get stuck in to understand her business from bottom to top. She has worked shifts on the shop floor, including a night-time deep-clean of a delivery store, in one of the group’s 1,500 Pizza Hut and KFC restaurants in the UK.

Within her own legal team she is committed to reducing the monetary overheads, saving more than £700,000 in projected legal spend for 2014 after undertaking the group’s first panel review last year. In the past year she has also run courses for almost 300 people on the realities of a franchise relationship. 

PayPal ’s head of legal, Thomas Brown , also had a particularly good year, solidifying his team’s role as a central player to the group’s business strategy. As well as managing negotiations with various large outsourcing deals for PayPal in the US and EU, Brown led several business initiatives, including setting up a process for obtaining security from PayPal merchants and developing an internal product review website.

For Abercrombie & Kent ’s first general counsel Michael Ellis , last year was a story of firsts. Educating the business on the importance of an in-house legal function, Ellis has introduced policies and procedures that need to be put in place as a result of the global regulatory environment. 

Meanwhile Kent County Council ’s head of litigation and social welfare, Ben Watts , and Scotia Gas Networks ’ (SGN) company secretary Nicola Shand have worked tirelessly to deliver savings. While Shand completed a panel review to cut external costs, Watts pushed forward his legal team’s Evolution Project, delivering more than £1m in efficiency savings.

Anesco ’s head of legal, Jeremy Cross , often runs deals single-handedly, keeping external legal and professional fees to a strict minimum. A recent deal worth more than £65m in contract value cost Anesco only £35k in legal fees.

A the same time, Lloyds Banking Group legal director Ijeoma Okoli has been busy guiding the bank through the new financial regulatory environment. She has been indispensable to the bank’s remodelling of its activities to comply with new legislation, helping it to continue trading operations with its US counterparties. 

International Firm of the Year

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton


Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners

Jones Day

King & Wood Mallesons

Ropes & Gray

Slater & Gordon

This year’s competition for International Firm of the Year has certainly heated up with a large number of quality entries. The range of regions from which the finalists’ firms are headquartered has also widened, as two Asia Pacific firms and two continental European firms are pitted against their US counterparts in this hotly contested category.

Asia Pacific powerhouse King & Wood Mallesons has had another historic year, combining with UK firm SJ Berwin on 1 November 2013. The merger has transformed the firm into a leading global player both by revenue and lawyer numbers.

Australia-listed consumer firm Slater & Gordon has also significantly increased its market share in the UK and more than doubled its revenue Most recently the firm acquired Pannone , instantly removing a competitor from the market.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton had a busy year in the UK and Europe, particularly on the capital markets and finance front. It advised the arrangers in Technicolor’s $1.1bn cross-border debt refinancing and represented Numericable in its €652.2m IPO, the first major IPO in France in four years.

Jones Day , meanwhile, scored a number of mandates for complex, cross-border litigation and M&A transactions in 2013. One notable case was its defence of Texas Keystone against Excalibur Ventures’ $1.6bn claim over an interest in petroleum fields in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ropes & Gray has also strengthened its corporate finance practice in London with a large number of associates and partner hires over the past year. It also secured roles in several multibillion pound transactions in this area, such as advising Goldman Sachs ESSG and TPG on the buying of a £1.2bn portfolio from Lloyds Banking Group and acting for Barchester Group on £1.4bn real estate financing transactions.

Two European firms also put in strong performances last year – Garrigues achieved a 32 per cent revenue growth for its London office and Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners pushed forward its international expansion plan with newly launched Turkey and South Korea desks as well as a new Hong Kong office.

Corporate Team of the Year

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton


Slaughter and May

Squire Sanders

Taylor Wessing

Weil Gotshal & Manges

Last year proved to be a mixed bag for corporate lawyers, with the market experiencing continued volatility. Nevertheless, as money flowed back into the corporate M&A markets, the lawyers got stuck in to some of the biggest deals in years. For the teams shortlisted in this category, the threshold was high.

Take Macfarlanes ’ advice for Verizon Communications on its acquisition of a 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless, owned by Vodafone. Ringing in at $130bn, the deal was not only the largest for more than a decade but the third-biggest M&A transaction and the second-largest cross-border corporate deal in history.

Cleary made a splash, providing advice for Russia’s largest oil company, Rosneft, in its $55bn acquisition of TNK-BP. A particularly complex and challenging deal, the transaction required Cleary to field a team of more than 120 lawyers, spread across seven offices.

Also looking to Europe, Weil Gotshal & Manges had a hand in the first successful take-private by a private equity house in Switzerland. The firm advised clients Avista Capital Partners and Nordic Capital on their joint offer for Swiss-listed pharma company Acino Holding for roughly £270m.

Even the sale of Fulham FC had a cross-border element, when it changed hands from Mohamed Al Fayed to Shahid Khan, CEO of Flex-N-Gate Group and owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars for a multimillion pound sum. Squire Sanders led for new client Flex-N-Gate, managing to close the deal in under a month.

It wasn’t all M&A, of course. No corporate round-up of 2013 would be complete without a mention of IPOs – in particular that of national treasure Royal Mail, which proved to be the year’s largest. Slaughter and May has been shortlisted for the award, having led for the issuer on the transaction, advising on every-thing from the structure of the share offer to industrial relations.

Not to be outdone, Taylor Wessing made a significant impact thanks to advising new client Tritax on the launch of its REIT (real estate investment trust) – a structure ensuring it can acquire property at reasonable prices. The REIT raised £200m in its December IPO and has since acquired two further properties.

The deal makes serious headway in the UK’s REIT market, which has traditionally been underdeveloped in comparison to its multibillion dollar market in the US.

Barrister of the Year

Neil Block QC, Thirty Nine Essex Street

Anneliese Day QC, 4 New Square

David Foxton QC, Essex Court Chambers

Nathalie Lieven QC, Landmark Chambers

Hodge Malek QC, Thirty Nine Essex Street

David Streatfeild-James QC, Atkin Chambers

Richard Todd QC, 1 Hare Court

Instructing the right barrister on the right case can save litigants millions, if not billions of pounds. Each of the counsel shortlisted for The Lawyer Barrister of the Year award has contributed to the development of the law while winning big for their end client.

Essex Court Chambers’ David Foxton QC scored a major victory in the High Court when he defeated an $8bn claim that had been brought against his client, Deutsche Bank, by Sebastian Holdings. Not only did Mr Justice Cooke dismiss the case, he ordered Sebastian Holdings to pay the bank $240m and costs on an indemnity basis.

4 New Square’s Anneliese Day QC has won high praise from a string of clients after changing the momentum of cases she has been involved with. One High Court judge congratulated her on persuading him “against my instincts” that he should not dismiss the claim without first hearing the evidence.

Nathalie Lieven QC of Landmark Chambers is a Supreme Court regular, having built up a strong following in the field of public law. Aside from the high-profile challenge to the HS2 rail link this year, she also made headlines when she was instructed in the ‘Poundland case’, in which she successfully challenged the Government’s ‘back-to-work’ schemes.

Thirty Nine Essex Street’s Neil Block QC persuaded the High Court in December that it had jurisdiction to hear a case against the owners of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel from a holidaymaker who was staying there during the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Cross-jurisdiction is a particular specialism for this insurance silk, who finds himself consistently in demand.

Prest v Petrodel was the biggest divorce decision of 2013 and 1 Hare Court’s Richard Todd QC was once again on the winning side, having been instructed for Mrs Prest. Many thought this was an unwinnable dispute, but in ruling that Petrodel was holding properties on trust for Mr Prest, the Supreme Court established the circumstances in which the corporate veil could be pierced.

Also nominated in this category is Atkin Chambers’ David Streatfeild-James QC , who has been involved in some mammoth arbitrations over the past 12 months. Many of his cases are confidential, highlighting the sensitivity of the disputes in question. Clients, however, praise him for being “very assured, accomplished and extremely hard-working”.

Chambers of the Year

Essex Court Chambers

Matrix Chambers

No5 Chambers

Serle Court

Thirty Nine Essex Street

Wilberforce Chambers

3 Verulam Buildings

The winner of the 2014 Chambers of the Year accolade should take comfort in knowing that they have taken on one of the hardest-fought categories of The Lawyer Awards.

It has been a difficult year for sets headquartered outside London that have a mix of civil and criminal work, but Birmingham’s No5 Chambers has successfully pushed for growth through diversity. Between 2010 and 2013, for instance, direct access fees have tripled to more than £1m. There has also been a push for new business, with the set picking up instructions from 674 new firms.

No5 will compete for the title with heavyweights such as Essex Court Chambers, Wilberforce, Matrix, Thirty Nine Essex Street and last year’s winner, 3 Verulam Buildings.

Essex Court is home to several leading silks who have been instructed some of the biggest battles being waged in the civil courts. David Foxton QC, who is also shortlisted for Barrister of the Year, was recently picked to defend Clifford Chance ’s Frankfurt partnership against a £130m professional negligence claim along with Stephen Houseman QC and Tom Ford.

Matrix is rarely out of the public eye. It had barristers involved in the Mau Mau Kenyans’ successful case against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and was involved in the battle to persuade the Supreme Court to grant soldiers operating overseas protections under the Human Rights Act.

For Thirty Nine Essex Street , the past two years have been transformative, with the set absorbing 25 new members when 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square split up at the end of 2012. It is now the largest civil set in London. Quality not quantity is what counts, however, and the chambers continues to field leading counsel in a range of fields, including planning (Peter Village QC and Stephen Tromans QC); commercial (Hodge Malek QC and Stuart Catchpole QC, among others) and leading media silk Richard Spearman QC.

Serle Court , Wilberforce and 3 Verulam Buildings also have their share of heavyweight contenders, each of which has barristers instructed on the highest value cases working their way through the courts.

London’s High Court remains the place to be for heavyweight oligarch battles and high-profile energy disputes, according to The Lawyer Litigation Team of the Year entries.

One case on everyone’s lips was the $1.6bn battle over oilfields in Iraqi Kurdistan, resulting in a slam-dunk ruling in favour of Jones Day and Memery Crystal clients Texas and Gulf Keystone.

The fight saw both beat Clifford Chance client Excalibur, which argued it was owed rights to exploit the oilfields. Jones Day and Memery Crystal won on all 14 issues as well as winning an unprecedented third round of security for costs after the trial.

Elsewhere banking fights were the order of the day, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer leading a $8bn Deutsche Bank battle against Sebastian Holdings over trades that plummeted in value post-recession.

Billionaire Sebastian Holdings owner Andrew Vik emerged unhappy at the outcome. However in another of the year’s biggest billionaire businessman cases, things played out rather differently.

Norton Rose Fulbright client Victor Dahdaleh won his test case against the Serious Fraud Office, one of the most significant criminal corruption cases in recent history. The firm replaced Allen & Overy on the high-profile case with only six months to prepare for the trial, but their client was acquitted on all counts in December last year.

From one powerful businessman to another, Hogan Lovells succeeded in winning a $23m freezing order against the assets of a former employee of Russian financial services provider Otkritie Group.

Meanwhile Stephenson Harwood triumphed in bringing to an end an eight-year dispute between Dmitry Skarga and Russian shipping monolith Sovcomflot. The firm defended Skarga against claims of more than $1bn and succeeded in winning at the High Court and Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court has now refused permission to appeal.

The enduring appeal of arbitration is also demonstrated in this year’s entries, with highly confidential cases settled by Pinsent Masons and legacy Wragge & Co (which merged with Lawrence Graham on Thursday to become Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co). Wragge & Co’s dispute between Formula 1 driver Paul di Resta and Hamilton management ticked off another trend with its use of creative fees.

Regulatory Team of the Year

Bevan Brittan


Norton Rose Fulbright

Osborne Clarke

Pinsent Masons

Shearman & Sterling

Demand for regulatory advice has soared since the financial crash of 2008 and the broad range of contenders for The Lawyer Regulatory Team of the Year reflects the spectrum of advice in demand.

Bevan Brittan , for instance, is the go-to adviser to the SRA, having advised the regulator on a series of high-profile insolvencies involving large law firms in recent years. These include Halliwells, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Cobbetts, Challinors and Manches . It is unrivalled in the sector.

Also shortlisted is Pinsent Masons , which was instructed by the audit committee of Rangers International Football Club to investigate claims that a consortium that had proposed to buy the club out of administration was connected to its previous owner. If proved true, the claim would have led to the collapse of the deal. The Glasgow club did not turn to its usual lawyers for the investigation but, in rebutting the claims, the firm helped to ensure Rangers’ future.

Many banks have been put under the regulator’s microscope, Barclays more than most. The banking giant turned to Eversheds in connection with its high-profile review of more than 3,000 interest rate hedging products to small businesses. The 10 partner and 90 associate team also had dealings with the FCA, anti-bank lobby groups and MPs. All this was done with an eye on the budget, and the firm was put under pressure to cut rates. It was able to reduce the monthly costs by 40 per cent.

Norton Rose Fulbright is also shortlisted for its work in the financial markets. The firm has spent much of the past 12 months advising CME Group in its efforts to launch a UK-based European derivatives service. It was a mammoth task, which has included establishing one of the first trade repositories in Europe.

Osborne Clarke is recognised for its work for the Green Deal Finance Company (GDFC) in connection with the Government’s Green Deal, a form of consumer credit aimed at financing energy-efficient improvements. 

Also shortlisted is Shearman & Sterling , which advised ICE Clear Europe on a deal involving 75 million cleared derivatives contracts.

ABS of the Year

Ascent Performance Group

Brilliant Law Solicitors

Just Costs Solicitors

Knights Solicitors


Richmond Chambers


A new category for this year’s awards, ABS of the Year aims to recognise the achievements of the trailblazing tranche of legal businesses that took advantage of the arrival of the Legal Services Act (LSA) in January 2012.

Richmond Chambers embraced the opportunity to provide the public with direct access to the bar by becoming the first barrister-only chambers to be awarded an ABS licence, and consequently the first barrister-only law firm, in July 2013.

Just Costs used the opportunity to respond to new regulatory demands in the market, becoming the first to specialise in legal costs. In doing so, it has succeeded in recovering £280m for its clients to date.

Quindell entered the legal market in 2012 through its takeover of Silverbeck Rymer. It has since built a strong personal injury portfolio of clients such as RAC, Endsleigh Insurance and Swinton Insurance through acquisitions.

Schillings bucks the assumption that the new business model is the reserve of high-volume or low-value consumer work. Capitalising on the opportunity to integrate its legal, risk consulting and cyber security offerings to high-net-worth individuals, its revenue rose by 30 per cent on the previous year.

Knights grabbed headlines when Dragons’ Den star James Caan’s private equity house invested in it. Since then it has reduced overheads by more than 20 per cent and increased turnover by 7 per cent.

Brilliant Law took the opportunity to build a legal offering for SMEs, putting in place non-lawyer managers and innovative service delivery and pricing. It achieved a 92 per cent client satisfaction rate after just 12 months’ trading.

Ascent Performance Group is an Irwin Mitchell business. It was the first ABS to undertake an acquisition and, with four completed to date, is matched only by Slater & Gordon in the number made since becoming an ABS.

The business has grown an average of 50 per cent year on year since it was established in 2009 and expects a turnover of £17m in 2014.

Real Estate Team of the Year

Burges S