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Disputes again thrived in the last year. In the banking sector, cases emerged from non-performing businesses and/or financial instruments, while several matters continue to revolve around the collapse of Lehman Brothers and of the Icelandic banking sector. With six years having passed since these collapses, the contractual limitation period for causes of action, accrued under the 1980 Limitation Act, is due to expire towards the end of 2014, and is expected to lead to more disputes in the financial institutions sector.

Fraud-related cases continue to surface, and with the manipulation of LIBOR - the benchmark to which interest rates in commercial transactions were set - involving a range of banks, there will be further regulatory enforcement around the world. In turn, the LIBOR investigation led to another scandal in the form of foreign exchange rates manipulation.

The Jackson reforms (implemented in April 2013 in England and Wales) introduced significant changes such as contingency fees, a new costs management procedure for multi-track cases, and the abolition of success fees in conditional fee agreements and after-the-event (ATE) premiums. The reforms are at an early stage, but the courts have applied them robustly, particularly with regard to the rules on costs budgets. Further, clients expect their solicitors to offer flexible funding arrangements. As a result, commercial litigators have been developing new, alternative funding options.

There has also been continued interest in litigation funding, with corporate entities willing to share litigation risks with third parties, which agree to provide all, or part, of the litigation costs in exchange for a share of the winnings should the case succeed; but if the dispute is lost, the funder bears the costs that it agreed to fund. Consequently, certain claimants that have viable cases, but lack the finances to pursue their case, obtain access to justice.

Currently, the new costs management rules do not apply to the Commercial Court, or to cases in the Chancery Division, Technology and Construction Court (TCC) and Mercantile Courts where the sums in dispute exceed £2m (excluding interest and costs). However, it is expected that the rules will eventually be introduced on a broader basis.

An ongoing key trend in the London commercial litigation market is the increased use of the London courts by foreign parties, in particular from the CIS, especially in relation to high-profile banking and other fraud cases. London teams also regularly see significant incoming work from the Middle East, Asia and, increasingly, Africa and Latin America.

London continues to be an increasingly popular hub for international arbitration, with big-ticket energy disputes in particular resulting in large cases. Public international law practitioners remain busy with both investment treaty cases and politically sensitive sanctions work.

High-profile moves in the litigation market include: Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP welcoming Penny Madden from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP as co-international arbitration chair; Signature Litigation LLP hiring CIS specialist Natalia Chumak from Fieldfisher; and Simon Bushell exiting Herbert Smith Freehills LLP for Latham & Watkins. Other recruitment includes: Vinson & Elkins RLLP hiring Salans’ former UK international arbitration head, George Burn, from Dentons; Pinsent Masons LLP’s former litigation head Nigel Kissack joining Irwin Mitchell; Sidley Austin LLP recruiting Weil, Gotshal & Manges’ former London dispute resolution head Matthew Shankland; Covington & Burling LLP hiring energy expert Ben Holland from CMS; Debevoise & Plimpton LLP welcoming Tony Dymond from Herbert Smith Freehills LLP; and Nick Brocklesby joining Reed Smith LLP from King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin.

A number of market mergers have affected dispute resolution practices: Lawrence Graham LLP and Wragge & Co’s merger went live in May 2014, and is now known as Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co LLP; Squire Sanders LLP and Patton Boggs LLP united to create Squire Patton Boggs; one of Scotland’s largest law firms, Dundas and Wilson, merged with CMS; and Penningtons Solicitors LLP and Manches LLP joined forces to become Penningtons Manches LLP.

The market also experienced a headline start-up, when international arbitration expert Constantine Partasides QC exited Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Gaëtan Verhoosel left Covington & Burling LLP to launch specialist international arbitration firm Three Crowns LLP, with offices in London, Paris and Washington DC.

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Legal Developments in London for Overview

  • Finding the 
right words

    In the recent case of Newbury v Sun Microsystems [2013], the defendant argued that an offer to settle proceedings was ‘in principle' only and that a binding contract could not be formed until further terms had been agreed and a formal contract had been signed. It supported this argument by referring to a statement, in the offer letter, that the settlement was to be ‘recorded in a suitably worded agreement'. 

    - Macfarlanes

Legal Developments in the UK

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  • Home Office announces extension of support service for SMEs

    An online support service for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) which need to recruit skilled overseas workers has been extended until 28 February 2014. The pilot was launched by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) in partnership with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and provides a step by step guide to sponsoring an overseas worker. This service is available via the GLA website.
  • Penningtons Manches' immigration team considers new changes to the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance

    The Home Office has recently published new Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance, version 12/13. This guidance is to be used by all prospective and existing Tier 4 sponsors from 11 December 2013.
  • Finding the 
right words

    In the recent case of Newbury v Sun Microsystems [2013], the defendant argued that an offer to settle proceedings was ‘in principle' only and that a binding contract could not be formed until further terms had been agreed and a formal contract had been signed. It supported this argument by referring to a statement, in the offer letter, that the settlement was to be ‘recorded in a suitably worded agreement'. 

  • Behind the corporate veil: is that all there is?

    That companies have an existence entirely separate to that of their shareholders and directors is a foundational principle of English law and commerce.

  • Playing fair with penalty clauses

    It is often difficult to predict what will be recoverable as damages for breach of contract. To provide some certainty, parties will often seek to agree the sum that will be payable in the event of specified breaches. 

  • Restoring environmental damage: putting a price on ecosystem services

    On 7 August 2009 a 40-inch pipeline ruptured, spilling 5,400 cubic metres of crude oil into the soil and groundwater of La Crau nature reserve in southern France, a habitat protected under French and European law. The operator had to excavate and replace 60,000 tons of soil, install 70 wells to pump and treat groundwater and 25 pumps to skim oil from surface water, at a cost in the region of €50m. However, this was just the primary remediation (that is, restoring the site to the state it would have been if the damage had not occurred). The operator was also required to compensate for the damage to the habitats and the loss of the ecosystem services that would otherwise have been provided by La Crau nature reserve. Measures included purchasing land outside of the nature reserve and contributing to its management for a period of 30 years (over €1m), monitoring the water table for 20 years (over €500,000), monitoring fauna over three years (€150,000) and rehabilitation in accordance with best available ecological techniques (nearly €2m). Overall, the compensatory restoration (to compensate for the amount of time that the ecosystem was impacted) and complimentary restoration (to compensate for elements of the ecosystem that had been permanently lost) came to more than €6.5m. 

  • The role of arbitrators in EU antitrust law

    In May 2014, it will be ten years since Regulation No 1/2003 entered into force. When the legislator of the European Union adopted this Regulation on 16 December 2002, its main objective was to decentralise the enforcement of the two main provisions of EU antitrust law, Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (now Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)). Where do the arbitrators fit in this picture?

  • New Immigration Bill, October 2013: cause for concern or appeasing public sentiment?

    The year 2013 has seen a string of reforms to the immigration system by the current coalition government. On 10 October, the government published a Bill aimed at continuing its drive to reduce net migration figures. 

  • New Schengen EU Regulations: impact on short-stay visa visitors

    The publication on 26 June 2013 of the European Union Regulation EU 610/2013 modified the incumbent Regulation EU 562/2006 in relation to third country nationals (ie non-EU citizens) and those travelling on a short-stay visitor visa, as well as those who do not require a visa to enter the Schengen area, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria. Exceptions include EU and EEA nationals travelling to other EU/EEA states within the Schengen area together with foreign nationals holding either long-stay or residence permits for their destination Schengen countries.

  • New revised guidelines for administrators in pre-pack sales

    Pre-pack sales by administrators are now used frequently enough for most people in business to be aware of them and many have come across them in their business lives. A small amount of controversy still attaches to pre-packs, but it is probably right to say that they are now an accepted part of the UK business scene as a useful means of rescuing a business in difficulty and preserving some or all of the jobs connected with the business.
    - Druces

Press Releases in the UK

The latest news direct from law firms. If you would like to submit press releases for your firm, send an email request to