28 Jan 2022

Boies Schiller loses bulk of London office including five partners

New York firm pledges to rebuild team as former office head prepares to found new practice

City of London skyline at sunset

The City of London Jeremy Reddington/Shutterstock

Most of the lawyers at Boies Schiller Flexner’s London office have quit as former London head  – and one-time contender to lead the New York firm – Natasha Harrison prepares to start her own practice.

Twelve fee earners, including five partners, have joined Harrison in leaving the office – according to the listing on the firm's website – although it remains unclear how many will be joining forces with their former boss.

Confirming the departures on Friday, Boies Schiller said it was committed to rebuilding the office, which has been reduced to a team of four.

The five departing partners are financial services regulatory specialist Tracey Dovaston, Will Hooker (commercial arbitration), Fiona Huntriss (banking and finance litigation), Matt Getz (white collar crime) and Neil Pigott, who returned to the firm in July 2020 following a stint at Nomura working on distressed special situations.

Harrison's departure was confirmed in November, when she told the Financial Times that her new firm would focus on litigation work in the financial services sector,

She had been regarded as in the running to replace co-founder and chair David Boies prior to her decision to step down from her role as deputy chair last September, citing pandemic-related logistical issues. Eighty-year-old Boies was re-elected as chair in December. 

Just two newly made up partners — David Hunt and Prateek Swaika — will be left as permanent members of Boies Schiller’s London base alongside an associate. Partner Duane Loft shares his time between London and New York, according to the firm's website.  

A Boies Schiller spokesperson said the firm wished the leavers well, adding that it remained 'committed' to its London office and would be 'identifying and bringing in new talent to supplement our existing strengths” as well as “cultivating a London presence that is better integrated with the firm’s core work and clients'. 

The spokesperson also pointed to the firm’s recent pivot in its European strategy which saw it establish a physical presence in Milan when it hired four partners and 11 other attorneys from local firm RP Legal & Tax to launch an EU-focused office. The move marked the first new office for Boies Schiller since it set up shop in London eight years ago. 

The firm’s international arbitration, antitrust and competition and cross-border investigations and white collar defence practices “will be a significant focus as we grow our UK office in the coming months and years”, the spokesperson said, adding that the firm will “continue to serve our clients in their litigation before the English courts and in other jurisdictions that look to English law”. 

The departures come after a difficult few years for Boies Schiller, once among the most profitable law firms in the US.

The firm became swept up in the controversy surrounding David Boies’ work for disgraced public figures Harvey Weinstein and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. In 2020, its headcount fell by 40% and its PEP by 32% after the firm underwent what it characterised as a repositioning towards the most profitable work.

Partner losses included that of a 13-partner team that moved to the West Coast offices of King & Spalding in April 2020. In December 2021, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft hired a team of high-profile litigation lawyers including Nicholas Gravante, who was co-managing partner alongside Harrison at the time of his departure.

 

 

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