Interview with: David Greene, Partner

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Edwin Coe LLP

1) 2024 will be your 40th anniversary as a partner – apart from obvious developments such as technology, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the practice of law during that time?

In my time practice in litigation has changed enormously. In 1984 solicitors were reactive to clients’ needs and litigation was often an add on service for the mainstream transactional work.  Advertising was highly restricted for solicitors and non-existent for the Bar.  Now, all lawyers are both reactive and proactive in establishing clients’ needs and servicing them.  This has lead to a highly competitive environment in litigation legal services and the prominence of litigation as a growth area and a financial centre for legal services.


2) What makes a great litigator – and is that different now to when you started out?

In litigation our clients come to us with problems. As litigators we are problem solvers and we have a rich armoury to address problems from hard fought litigation to mediation and conciliation. In the past the best litigators were regarded as the most aggressive and some firms were well known for that stance. When I started the emphasis was very much on the court room as the forum for resolution. Now we have all sorts of mechanisms to achieve a resolution and the good ‘litigators’ are those that can achieve the best resolution for the client.


3) You head up the class action and finance litigation practice at Edwin Coe – what’s your view on the rising prominence of group litigation in the UK market?

We have been practising group litigation for over 30 years starting in the mass tort arena. This developed over the years into shareholder litigation and broader finance litigation, particularly after the World Financial Crisis in 2008/09. The courts have developed various mechanisms to allow cost efficient process for mass claims including the opt out process under the Consumer Rights Act but this is an area of work in development and I can only see it growing over the coming years assisted by the growth of third party funding.


4) Recent years have seen a marked rise in prominence of litigation-only, conflict-free boutiques – what impact has that had on the market, and do you see scope for more to emerge?

New so called, non-conflict firms started to appear some 15 years ago. We have always been generally a non-conflict firm.  The new coterie were often the result of major firm growth and mergers that created wide ranging conflicts often frustrating litigators building and maintaining their practices. The US firms, in particular, have a much stricter conflict policies making life difficult for many litigators who saw starting up a boutique as an alternative.


5) How has your practice developed in recent years – has the type of case you take on changed as you’ve become more and more experienced?

Group litigation has been the dominant growth area over the past few years as it has come into the mainstream.


6) What is the most memorable case of your career and why?

Difficult to choose. We have always done major public litigation but perhaps four that stand out are:

  • The work at the Fatal Accident Inquiry and subsequent US claims for British victims of the Lockerbie bomb.
  • Representing retail shareholders in Railtrack nationalisation which lead to the resignation of the Secretary of State.
  • The air cargo cartel litigation just for the fun of watching the now retired Peter Smith J at work.
  • The Article 50 challenge in the Brexit debates

Each was a challenge not only in law but in a human way, from those who had suffered the most awful immeasurable loss at Lockerbie to those in the Brexit debate that felt almost violent passion on the issue. The human side of our work has always been to the forefront of practice, as we seek to ensure our clients  have a say in a system that is often constructed against them, and dealing with it is a much greater challenge than the law side.


7) Who have been some of the biggest influences on your career?

I’ve worked in many different jurisdictions over the years and some of the biggest influences is to see other systems working and learn from it.


8) Do you have a favourite Legal 500 testimonial that you’ve received over the years?

Someone once said I was the conductor in an orchestra because running large multi-party is bringing a variety of players together and making them a combined whole. That’s about right.