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28 September 2020

Withers hires former UK attorney general and leading Brexiteer Geoffrey Cox

Barrister to advise on disputes; Travers Smith boosts IT practice by hiring former ministerial colleague Nicky Morgan

By Ben Rigby

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UK law firm Withers has hired the former UK attorney general, Geoffrey Cox QC MP, as a consultant to the firm’s dispute resolution group.

Cox, who as attorney general played a pivotal role in political crisis last year that preceded the UK’s exit from the EU, will focus on international arbitration, multi-jurisdictional commercial litigation and public international law matters. He will continue to sit in the UK’s House of Commons as a member of parliament (MP) and retain his  long-standing membership of Thomas More Chambers, which he helped found. 

A former standing counsel to the government of Mauritius, he has appeared in several common law courts outside the UK, including Dubai. He served as attorney general during the Theresa May and Boris Johnson administrations, before making way for Suella Bravermann in February. 

A supporter of Brexit, he played a prominent role helping to steer the legislation enacting the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement through a hostile House of Commons, which only succeeded after Johnson's election victory in December. He has since been critical of plans to amend the agreement, potentially breaching international law.

Cox is not the only former attorney general to work with law firms in a disputes role; Debevoise & Plimpton partner Lord Goldsmith QC – who controversially declared the Iraq War to be legal while serving in Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration – acts as the firm’s head of European and Asian disputes, while current Labour shadow Attorney General, Lord Falconer (a former justice secretary), is a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. 

Peter Wood, head of Withers' dispute resolution group, said Cox had “an outstanding track record in core areas for us such as civil litigation, regulatory matters, fraud disputes, international arbitrations and investment disputes and in advising overseas governments“.

He added that Cox’s “experience at the sharp end in government will be invaluable to us and to our clients when strategic advice is required”.

Cox, who will work closely with Wood and international arbitration co-heads Hussein Haeri and Emma Lindsay, said both sides had “identified many opportunities for collaboration".

Morgan returns to Travers Smith

Meanwhile, Baroness Nicky Morgan, one of Cox’s former senior ministerial colleagues, has been welcomed back at leading UK independent law firm Travers Smith as a consultant. She was a solicitor there from 2002 to 2010 and will work with the firm’s technology sector group.

Morgan, who qualified at Addleshaw Goddard and spent nearly five years at Allen & Overy, worked as a professional support lawyer for Travers in corporate and private equity before being elected to parliament in 2010 as an MP representing the Conservative Party. 

She held a variety of ministerial roles, including as culture secretary and education secretary.  She was also the first, and to date only, female chair of the Commons’ Treasury select committee. Her work as culture secretary saw her support tech companies and start-ups, as well as setting policy on internet regulation. 

Travers Smith senior partner Kathleen Russ welcomed Morgan back to Travers, saying: “Nicky's substantial legal expertise, coupled with her in-depth understanding of the technology sector and knowledge of the current policy and political landscape, will enable us to further enhance the support we provide to clients."

In March, Macfarlanes hired former Lord Chancellor David Gauke in the new role of head of public policy.

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