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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Clyde & Co

05 March 2012

Clyde & Co announced a major merger in 2010 and saw the amount of non-shipping-related commercial arbitration on its books increase

People in Who’s Who:
1
Pending cases as counsel:
600
Value of pending counsel work:
US$12 billion
Treaty cases:
10
Current arbitrator appointments:
27 (of which 13 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
8

Originally one of the City’s big three shipping firms, Clyde & Co has spent recent years responding to (arguably dwindling) prospects in that field by diversifying and expanding, and “making a huge success of it” according to one UK publication. Some 30 per cent of its revenue now comes from corporate work, and more than a third of its revenue is generated outside the UK. Some of the new sectors it’s been targeting include aviation, energy and infrastructure.

Still, work there remains weighted towards contentious matters and the background in shipping gives Clyde & Co one of the largest, if not the largest, dockets of commercial disputes, including arbitrations. The LCIA has described the firm in the past five years as being its biggest user “by a large margin”. Many of the cases on its books are fast-paced shipping or commodities disputes.

That, though, has been changing. In 2007, the firm turned up representing Yemen in one of the largest ICC arbitrations ever recorded (Baker Botts was on the other side) and it’s worked on some high-profile ICSID matters too. The firm says energy and infrastructure disputes now form about 35 to 40 per cent of its arbitration activity.

Mergers with other practices have also helped to round out its service. The addition of the construction disputes boutique Shadbolt in 2010 in particular added ICC expertise, which some had seen as a deficiency. It’s also seen its name go up in rankings for the new areas it covers.

The practice occasionally gets sniffy comments from competitors about how it chooses to staff its cases. Clyde & Co partners say the lean staffing approach is a virtue – and it’s a major selling point to be better value for money than magic circle competitors. As well as giving the firm better connections where it counts, the firm says using barristers for advocacy remains the most sensible use of clients’ funds.

In the past two years, the firm has made a concerted push in Asia, making a number of lateral hires who are international arbitration specialists. They include Stephen Lim, who joined from Baker Botts, and Timothy Cooke, formerly of Baker & McKenzie in Singapore.

In late 2011, the firm announced a merger with the venerable Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, which is particularly famous for its connections with the London insurance market. Though framed as a merger of equals, the suspicion in some reports has been that Clyde & Co will lead the newly merged entity. Much like their new colleagues, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert partners tend to grow up on a diet of contentious work so several will be no stranger to international arbitration.

Network

Very few UK law firms can match Clyde & Co’s global network, which now consists of 27 offices and spans the unusual locations (for a UK practice) of San Francisco, New Jersey, Toronto and Dar es Salaam. It’s also present in Brazil and, through an association, India.

From an arbitration perspective, the key offices are London and Dubai, and there are high hopes for the offices in China and Singapore.

Who uses it?

The firm works for Glencore on a regular basis and quite a few of the major trading houses, whose names aren’t that well known to those outside that particular sector.

More memorable clients include Yemen – which retained the practice to defend a US$10 billion ICC claim a few years back – and Serbia.

The firm has also been representing Arabtec, a UAE construction group, and Alstom. For Arabtec, it prosecuted a US$450 million claim against Meydan City over the termination of a contract to build a new stand at the racecourse.

Track record

Love or hate its style of handling cases, Clyde & Co has always been able to point to results. The monumental ICC case for Yemen ended with both sides walking away apparently relieved, claiming to have secured a better result than expected. More recently, partner Marko Kraljevic won US$70 million for energy trading company Vitol in a dispute with Bhatia, while partner Michael Swangard stopped a US$100 million claim against an investment bank on behalf of a Russian client and won €3.5 million.

Recent events

In 2010, the firm continued to add specialists in Asia. It added two construction focused partners in Hong Kong – Gilbert Kwok, formerly of Stephenson Harwood, who specialises in both contentious and non-contentious construction work, in September; and Ian Cocking, formerly of Minter Ellison, near the end of the year. Both work from Hong Kong. Cocking is now head of construction practice in China (a newly created position). In Singapore, it added Timothy Cooke – who had been in charge of international arbitration for Baker & Mckenzie locally – as legal director.

The international arbitration practice expanded the number of places it has held roadshows promoting the use of the mechanism. It visited Lagos and Dar es Salaam.

A UK newspaper for the legal profession said it had the sixth-largest UK litigation practice. It also had one of the year’s more successful financial performances, increasing its turnover by 10 per cent, to £212 million.

Client comment

Several clients contacted by GAR said they would recommend Clyde & Co, including a counsel to the Serbian government, Miroslav Paunovic. He was particularly impressed by Clyde & Co’s understanding of “the local circumstances and political sensitivity of the case”. He said the firm had managed the case impeccably: “I am certain the government of Serbia received value for money.”

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