‘A natural move for us’ – Gateley launches collective actions practice

Listed UK law firm appoints two partners from claimant firm Slater & Gordon
Formal photo of Chaya Hanoomanjee (centre) Alicia Theuma and Richard Healey

Chaya Hanoomanjee (centre) Alicia Theuma and Richard Healey

Gately has appointed two partners from claimant firm Slater & Gordon (S&G) to launch a collective actions practice. 

Moving across to the listed UK law firm as partners are Chaya Hanoomanjee, formerly head of collective actions at S&G, and principal lawyer Alicia Theuma. The practice will advise consumers and businesses launching collective claims, a market that is expected to continue growing due to legal reforms and the growth of litigation funding. 

The pair have extensive experience in complex group litigation and litigation financing. Theuma was the lead solicitor in the Dieselgate litigation which saw S&G represent 71,000 of the 91,000 claimants in the VW NOx Emissions group action alongside Leigh Day. 

Partner Richard Healey, who leads Gateley’s business services platform, said both recruits “bring more than two decades of litigation, investigation and proven niche experience of collective actions to Gateley”. 

Calling the expansion “a natural move for us”, he said the firm aimed to fill a gap in the market that “puts clients first and combines the best legal and commercial expertise in this area”.

In addition to her claimant work, Hanoomanjee has in-house defendant experience, having worked for American Express as EMEA head of litigation and investigations for nearly five years and Barclays Bank before that. She also spent a year at Augusta Ventures as a diligence manager before leaving in 2020 to join S&G. 

“With improvements in technology and access to flexible funding arrangements, collective actions are becoming more popular routes to justice for consumers and corporates alike,” she said. 

She added that Gately would invest in sophisticated technology and the ability to work through complex cost and funding mechanisms to benefit clients. 

The new practice, she said, “will be unique in combining all these elements to achieve meaningful outcomes for diverse groups of clients. We have the appetite to pursue the most challenging cases if we believe there has been injustice”.

Theuma specialises in complex group litigation, spanning international, emissions, environmental, product liability and serious injury.

She leaves Slater after 10 years, having been made a principal in March 2022, rising from associate to senior associate in 2019. Before joining Slater and Gordon, she was an associate prosecutor at the CPS for three years, and a senior case manager before that. 

Noting there were “many new and inexperienced entrants to the UK market”, Theuma said the time was right for the firm to launch a specialist team with niche expertise in this area. 

The two lawyers exit S&G following losses of almost £18m for FY 2020/2021, as reported in January 2023, when it told the Law Society Gazette that the VW emissions litigation enabled the firm to “approach 2023 with confidence and optimism”. The case settled in May 2022, leading to a £193m payment to claimants. 

The firm’s UK practice was demerged from the Australian parent in 2019, following its disastrous purchase of Quindell, later renamed Watchstone Group, which saw its share price collapse, leading both to litigation and an £82,000 fine from the Solicitors Regulation Authority in December 2022 for historical breaches of practice rules. 

The firm was subsequently brigaded into two divisions, one for essential and another for specialist legal services. It transferred its lower-value personal injury work to Merseyside firm Carpenters in March 2023, with associated staff.

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