Valerie Davies

Anne Mizzi talks to Valerie Davies, a partner basking in the media spotlight after acting in the high-profile Maxwell Communications case.

Valerie Davies, head of the seven partner corporate and banking litigation group at Norton Rose, is basking in her new-found publicity, which exploded after winning a £67m out of court settlement for Grant Thornton, which was acting as administrator for Maxwell Communications Corporation (MCC).

The case, which has now been settled in both the UK and US, dominated the horizon of Davies’ team for over a decade, and has provided the odd sleepless night for Davies.

When the case began Davies was informed at midnight that proceedings to wind up MCC were being brought in the New York bankruptcy court. Added to this was the directors’ refusal to confirm whether MCC would be put into administration: “We found out the date of the hearing by sending people down to court and checking all the court rooms.”

And because MCC had 406 US subsidiaries, Norton Rose had to make a chart of the complex corporate structure, which ran the length of Davies’ office.

The case was also one of the first to be heard under the Woolf reforms, and illustrates the change lawyers will have to adjust to.

“I think the biggest shock to practitioners will be that all our know-how has gone. We are going to have to build a new know-how from scratch with new experiences,” she says.

But then Davies is a woman who actively seeks out new experiences.

At the beginning of her career, she chose a different path to the one presented to her, opting for law through a process of elimination: “I didn’t want to do any of my A level subjects as a degree – I wanted to do something different.”

Her choice of career led her to meet her husband Garry Hart, special adviser to the Lord Chancellor, when they both worked at Herbert Smith.

The connection to the Labour Party continues, since Davies went to university with Cherie Booth QC.

Although clearly a member of the Blair crowd, Davies says she has no plans to join the Labour Party.

Perhaps the move might mirror too closely her other area of business – sheep farming. She and Hart own a working sheep farm in Wales.

She says that when her husband worked at Herbert Smith they would talk shop, but that has now changed: “We haven’t really talked about what goes on in his office from day to day.”

She laughs about Hart’s drop in salary, saying cheerfully: “There have been a few pointed remarks about me being the breadwinner.”

And Davies does work hard, sitting as a part time assistant recorder since 1997.

She says she thought this would bring a new dimension to her litigation: “As a litigator I only get to see one side of the case, unless there is a pre-action discovery, which is unusual. It’s not until discovery that you see the whole transaction.

“I have had a very interesting and enjoyable career and I felt that this was one way of giving something back.”

And now the MCC milestone is out of the way, the insolvency specialist says she hopes that high profile cases will continue to flood in.
Valerie Davies
Head of corporate and banking litigation
Norton Rose