• Search

GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Berwin Leighton Paisner

05 March 2012

Strong lateral hires have given BLP’s team extra momentum, and more may be in the pipeline

Pending cases as counsel:
24
Value of pending counsel work:
US$3.5 billion
Treaty cases:
0
Current arbitrator appointments:
15 (of which 9 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
3

Berwin Leighton Paisner was formed from the merger of Berwin Leighton with Paisner & Co in 2001, and within five years came to be regarded as one of the London market’s success stories. It doubled its turnover during that period and became famous for a strength in every facet of law relating to commercial real estate.

The merged firm established an international arbitration practice led by Michael Polonsky with a construction disputes slant. Initially, the team was supplemented by members of the firm’s construction group and later by members of a Russian firm that was absorbed in 2009.

Then in 2009, the firm laterally recruited Nic Fletcher from Clifford Chance, who had worked under John Beechey (now chair of the ICC International Court of Arbitration). His arrival has increased the practice’s momentum and attracted new clients.

Among his other credentials, Fletcher is a member of the ICC’s standing task force on the New York Convention and a member of the executive committee of the Foundation for International Arbitration Advocacy.

The practice has also added lawyers at the younger level. Among them is Amir Ghaffari, who joined from Emmanuel Gaillard’s team at Shearman & Sterling in Paris and is co-chair of the LCIA’s Young International Arbitration Group.

Network

The international arbitration practice is headed by Fletcher from the London office, where most of the arbitration specialists are based. There’s also a team in Moscow (operating under the banner of Goltsblat BLP) led by Elena Trusova, and in Abu Dhabi, led by Caroline Pope. A new Singapore practice will be led by Kent Phillips. BLP has had an office there since 2007 with a focus on the mining and natural resources sector.

The firm has recently opened an office in Hong Kong and says it continues to monitor opportunities in that jurisdiction. It also has an office in Paris.

Who uses it?

The firm has an excellent list of UK clients, including Canary Wharf, Tesco, the Football Association and Shell. Since Fletcher’s arrival, the arbitration team has handled several matters for project companies of AES, the US-headquartered international power company. Its representation of AES is understood to have led to a range of other instructions in the energy field. The team has also been instructed by state of Lagos in Nigeria to defend a claim brought by Enron Nigeria.

KBR and Italy’s Snamprogetti instruct the group on international engineering disputes, even where the governing law is not English and the Central Bank of Trinidad & Tobago has retained it to advise on developing claims arising out of the collapse of a major Caribbean insurer.

Track record

It’s still reasonably early days for the new and improved BLP arbitration group – but it has already distinguished itself with good results.

In a London-seated LCIA arbitration, for example, Michael Polonksy persuaded Hilary Heilbron QC, sitting as sole arbitrator, to end a dispute between joint venture partners in a gold mine operation in Kyrgyzstan because of lack of jurisdiction. The claim was for more than US$16 million and the outcome crucial to the client’s survival.

Meanwhile, Fletcher has successfully represented a major international financial institution in a dispute with a US multinational over breaches of warranty arising from the sale of a European vehicle leasing business. The claim was for US$400 million and involved 65 separate accounting claims, as well as allegations of fraud.

Recent events

The firm hired Kent Phillips, a former partner at Addleshaw Goddard, in October 2011 – who joined fresh from the Abramovich/Berezkovsky litigation in the UK High Court. Phillips, who was an India jurisdiction partner at Addleshaw Goddard, will build the firm’s Asia international arbitration practice from Singapore (a major hub for India-related disputes).

A month later, barrister and arbitrator Stuart Isaacs QC joined the firm as head of advocacy, from South Square Chambers. Isaacs will further boost the Asia practice as the first QC to be authorised by the Singapore attorney general to practice as a foreign lawyer in Singapore.

Maxim Kulkov, who practised litigation and arbitration in Russia, departed for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in March 2011.

Related articles

Insight

Reviews

Regional analysis from arbitrators around the globe, focussing on key developments in specific industry areas and jurisdictions.

Gcr handbook devices 1024 230x67

The Asia-Pacific Arbitration Review 2020

Highlights

DCF: Gold Standard or Fool’s Gold?

Montek Mayal and Alexander Davie

FTI Consulting

Distinction and Connection: Hong Kong and Mainland China, a View from the HKIAC

Sarah Grimmer

Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre