Howard Kennedy partner named next president of London Solicitors Litigation Association

Nikki Edwards pledges renewed focus on diversity and inclusion as the new leader of London’s litigators

Nikki Edwards Image courtesy of Howard Kennedy

Howard Kennedy partner Nikki Edwards has been appointed the next president of the London Solicitors Litigation Association (LSLA). 

The commercial disputes partner succeeds Hogan Lovells’ Nicholas Heaton in the role and is set to lead the association for a two-year term. Howard Kennedy’s managing partner, Craig Emden, praised the appointment, noting London’s place as a global hub for legal services.

“It is vital that our litigators have a voice and strong leadership to maintain our prominence in the disputes market,” Emden said. “I know they are in excellent hands with Nikki as their president.”

Edwards, who follows in the footsteps of distinguished predecessors such as Chancery Master Francesca Kaye and former Law Society president David Greene, takes office at a crucial juncture for London’s litigators. She is the second woman to lead the LSLA, 10 years after Kaye held the role.

While corporate and individual litigants manage economic and political uncertainty, London’s courts grapple with a legacy of historic underfunding. In December, Law Society president Nick Emmerson noted that research by the Society had found 47% of court users had experienced case delays and adjournment in the preceding 12 months, while 28% said the court estate was unfit for purpose.

Higher-value claims, meanwhile, have been affected by geopolitical shifts, especially regarding Russian and CIS clients, as well as economic uncertainty, appellate challenges to litigation funding and legislative responses, the use of mediation and pressures on judicial recruitment and retention.

Meanwhile the judiciary has focused strongly on using AI to remodel civil justice, as recent speeches by the Master of the Rolls and his deputy have indicated. Edwards pledged that the LSLA would navigate such tumultuous times with particular attention to business distress, the rise of AI and crypto assets, collective claims and relevant ESG considerations.

She said the LSLA would also examine procedural developments in areas such as alternative dispute resolution, pre-action conduct and litigation funding reforms, which are anticipated to impact dispute resolution in London profoundly.

Drawing on her background as a female lawyer from a working-class family, Edwards’ term as president will also see the LSLA promote diversity, inclusion and wellness in the legal profession. Under her guidance the association will aim to highlight the importance of creating equal opportunities for individuals across all demographics, ensuring litigation lawyers reflect the society they serve.

Edwards articulated her vision for the LSLA in her inaugural address as president, emphasising the importance of maintaining London’s position as a top global disputes hub as the LSLA “continues to provide a strong voice” on the issues impacting its litigation market.

“The LSLA’s annual litigation trends survey showed that despite Brexit, 94% of respondents haven’t seen a material flight of work from London in the last year,” she noted. “But while London remains open for business, it cannot rest on its laurels – it needs to be match fit for the issues affecting the sector to maintain its litigation crown.”

Edwards pointed to upcoming changes that will modernise important aspects of dispute procedure, such as the Arbitration Bill, which she said would “benefit businesses worldwide looking to resolve disputes and, in turn, further cement London’s position as the disputes capital of the world”. 

She added: “Changes to the litigation funding sector will also affect the volume and process of litigation in London. The LSLA is crucial in influencing the London litigation sector as it influences and responds to these changes.”

John McElroy of Hausfeld, vice president, and Mary Young of Kingsley Napley, treasurer, join her on the executive committee. Ceri Morgan of Herbert Smith Freehills leads on membership, while Natalie Todd of Cooke Young & Keidan is the LSLA’s new secretary.

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