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06 August 2020

Quinn Emanuel brings in experienced City litigator in first London hire of 2020

Justin Michaelson arrives from Fried Frank to further expand Quinn's London disputes offering

By Ben Rigby

Justin Michaelson joins Quinn Emanuel from Fried Frank

Justin Michaelson, an experienced commercial disputes partner, has joined Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan as part of  a plan to grow the firm's London office. 

Michaelson leaves Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson after nearly eight years in the role, having been a partner at legacy firm SJ Berwin until 2012.

Michaelson brings Quinn Emanuel a mix of both arbitration and litigation skills. At SJ Berwin, he built up a robust mixed practice in both disciplines, having acted in the celebrated VTB v Nutritek appeal in the UK Supreme Court, which established an important precedent on piercing the corporate veil.

For Michaelson, Nutritek served as a springboard for a variety of freezing injunction cases, a valuable remedy, especially in civil fraud cases. Such cases could rise if post-pandemic litigation increases as the global recession bites. If they do, Michaelson also has strong banking litigation skills, mainly gained working for a variety of Russian and CIS banks, having acted for VTB, Sberbank, and others.

Michaelson’s significant mandates also usefully span both claimants and defendants, something the litigation-only US firm will have noted. He has time served in long Commercial Court fights, including shareholder disputes, insolvency claims, and other litigation, including for former oligarchs like Sergei Pugachev, as well as big-ticket arbitrations and related offshore litigation.

That led John Quinn, one of Quinn Emanuel’s founders, to praise Michaelson's client base, saying he would “add real depth to our talented London office,” while also adding that the firm would seek to grow its London office in the coming months. The hire is Quinn Emanuel’s first London lateral partner hire in 2020.

Ted Greeno and Alex Gerbi, Quinn’s London co-managing partners, praised Michaelson's “proven track record of success,” saying he had earned his reputation in the London commercial disputes market, and that “his energy, expertise and ability will further strengthen our offering.”

His proactive litigation style, strong advocacy skills—Michaelson initially qualified as a barrister—and blend of appellate and trial management nous are also attractive. Such capabilities enable him to appear alongside, as well as instruct counsel from the top sets at the Bar.

In an environment where economic stress and disputes between investors within the Russian business community are all likely to lead to more claims in London—whose courts and tribunals have been notable past beneficiaries in hearing such cases—the hire looks well judged, especially given Quinn Emanuel's conflict-free approach.

The same approach was cited by Michaelson as persuasive, who said: “My clients want a strong litigation brand that offers conflict-free representation and greater flexibility to go adverse to banks and financial institutions.”

Fried Frank, meanwhile, has built up a healthy practice in London, attracting strong private equity, investment funds, real estate and corporate mandates. Michaelson was instrumental in building the litigation team, which he led after Nick Cherryman's 2015 departure to King & Spalding. Still, the move to Quinn's dedicated litigation platform seems both personally beneficial, and professionally apposite.  

His exit is a blow to Fried Frank, but softened by the arrival of disputes partner James Barrett from Squire Patton Boggs in January. That leaves two disputes partners in London, including experienced barrister James Kitching, while litigator Leigh Mallon was promoted to counsel in March.

The firm hired two litigation partners to its New York headquarters the same month, following a US-based five partner promotions round, with one in litigation, and the rest spanning corporate, finance, real estate and IP.

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