Howard Kennedy boosts arbitration practice with construction boutique merger

London law firm swells ranks with seven-lawyer team from Corbett & Co, including its highly regarded principal
Head shots of Craig Emden (left) and Edward Corbett

Craig Emden (left) and Edward Corbett

Corbett & Co, a three-partner construction law boutique well-known internationally for its work in all forms of construction disputes, is to merge with London law firm Howard Kennedy. 

The deal will see seven lawyers, including three partners, move to the firm, bringing Howard Kennedy’s partner numbers to 59, while adding former name partner, Edward Corbett, as a consultant. 

Corbett & Co, which is also based in London, has been known for its work for more than 30 years in construction, infrastructure, energy and engineering disputes, from arbitration through to FIDIC disputes, early neutral evaluations, mediations, and disputes boards.

The merger allows Howard Kennedy access to disputes expertise in claims spanning energy, airports, railways, roads, ports, dredging, building, bridges, dams and water treatment plants.

With a client base that includes major employers, including state owned enterprises, governments and international contractors, Corbett & Co  has acted on disputes arising from construction and engineering projects in Europe, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East.

Corbett founded the firm in 1993 upon leaving legacy Pinsent Masons, where he spent nine years as partner, having also worked at New Zealand firm Simpson Grierson.

The firm’s deep involvement in the standard form FIDIC contracts – a byword in construction projects – led naturally to Corbett’s involvement with the IBA whose journal Construction Law International he edited for thirteen years, bolstering his strong international credentials.  He also practices as an adjudicator and construction law trainer. 

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Corbett said: “Joining our firm with Howard Kennedy is a natural progression, and our team and clients will benefit from the scale and infrastructure the business offers. We have always prided ourselves on being trusted advocates for our clients and by combining the strengths of the two businesses we can expand our international FIDIC offering and continue to offer clarity and continuity.”

The acquisition is in line with ambitious growth plans announced by Howard Kennedy’s managing partner Craig Emden, who has targeted £80m annual revenue by 2024. Last year, the firm surpassed £60m in revenue – up by 6.3% - against a 9% fall in PEP. It singled out performances by its business crime, corporate and real estate transactions practices as well as its construction team which clocked up a 20% increase in income. 

Emden said: “Our new colleagues will strengthen what is already an exceptionally strong construction and international arbitration offering at Howard Kennedy. They also enable wider access to international markets and sectors we don't currently serve.”

The merger, he said, would benefit Corbett & Co’s existing clients, giving them access to the firm’s wider legal practice base. In January, Jonathan Huth, a dual-qualified US/UK white collar crime and compliance partner, joined the firm from Kobre & Kim. 

At the start of this month, Milbank's deal to absorb the London office of prominent private equity boutique Dickson Minto went live, handing the Wall Street firm a highly rated seven-partner team.

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