New in 2011. Kirkland & Ellis is perhaps best known for its litigation practice. Unusually for an international firm, court disputes are Kirkland & Ellis’ bread and butter, and account for the largest part of the firm’s overall revenues. No doubt it is this reputation as a firm to turn to when things get ugly that has seen Kirkland & Ellis pick up what must rank as one of the biggest instructions of year: the firm is leading the defence of BP in the Louisiana litigation resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The size of the litigation practice has overshadowed the firm’s reputation in the field of international arbitration. But Kirkland & Ellis could not manage so many high-value disputes without offering international arbitration expertise.
There are indeed a number of key figures with strong reputations in this area, particularly in London where the arbitration team has been growing in recent times and now has four partners. It is led by Christopher Colbridge and Rajinder Bassi, whose careers have developed in parallel: both began practising at Clifford Chance before a sojourn at Shearman & Sterling, where Colbridge led the London arbitration group. In 2010, Colbridge led a team that won a multimillion dollar award on behalf of logistics company ICS in an ICC arbitration against Kenya. This win was backed up by a victory in the enforcement stage in the London courts. He was recently retained by another logistics company that is bringing an ICSID claim against Pakistan. Bassi, meanwhile, recently represented a US car repair chain in an UNCITRAL arbitration against European counterparts worth over US$200 million. The two other partners in the London arbitration team, Chiraag Shah and Harkiran Hothi, were promoted in September. Chiraag, who worked on the ICS case, began his career in Kenya before joining the firm in 2006. Meanwhile, Hothi has acted for UK chemicals company Innospec in a number of international arbitrations. Many of the leading litigation practitioners in the firm’s various US offices also handle international arbitrations. In Los Angeles, for example, Mike Baumann won an award in 2009 from a Californian publication for his arbitration and dispute resolution work, and is currently representing an aircraft manufacturer in a multimillion dollar ICC arbitration.