20 Jul 2022

Pallas Partners hires Boies Schiller partner in New York to lead surprise US launch

Five months after leading mass defection in London, Natasha Harrison sets sights on former firm's home turf

Duane Loft

Pallas Partners, the litigation boutique founded by former Boies Schiller Flexner deputy chair Natasha Harrison, is opening an office in New York just five months after launching its home base in London. 

Harrison’s firm has secured yet another Boies Schiller partner to get the job done, this time turning to trial lawyer Duane Loft to lead the newest office.

The move into Boies Schiller's home territory has raised some eyebrows within London's litigation community given Pallas Partners' statement at the time of its launch that it would co-counsel with Boies Schiller on some cases.

Loft is leaving Boies Schiller after a little more than 10 years at the firm, where he was most recently a partner in its New York headquarters. He will be joined in Pallas’ newest office by more laterals ‘in due course’, the firm said. 

Born out of a ‘crucial’ need to provide clients with a meaningful transatlantic presence, the firm’s first US office will focus on its core strengths including high-stakes litigation, international arbitration and investigations in the financial services sector. 

Loft, who specialises in restructuring disputes, contested issues in bankruptcy and international litigations, said joining the firm was a chance to reunite with Harrison and “grow in New York what has already been a huge success in London”. 

For her part, Harrison said she and Loft shared a “similar work ethos and a burning commitment to create a different kind of law firm capable of leveraging bold, winning strategies that drive value” for clients. 

Regarding future growth ambitions for the office, Harrison confirmed the firm plans to continue growing with more lateral hires. 

“The US is the world’s most sophisticated litigation market and is the main driver of cross border litigation in Europe, so it is an important part of our strategy to have strength in depth in both London and New York,” she said. 

Pallas officially launched amid a blaze of publicity in February, not long after Harrison confirmed her departure from Boies Schiller to the Financial Times in November. Harrison had been viewed as a possible successor to famous litigator David Boies as chair of the firm he founded prior to her decision to step down from her role as deputy chair last September, citing pandemic-related logistical issues. 

The US firm then lost the bulk of its London office in January when 12 lawyers – including five partners – followed Harrison out the door, with all five of those partners quitting to join Pallas as members of the firm’s flagship team in the City. 

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

Last November the firm added a sizeable team including four partners from Italian outfit RP Legal & Tax to launch an EU-focused office in Milan and a spokesperson said at the time of the London departures that Boies Schiller remained committed to its office there and would look to bring in new talent. The first partner to join in London following the January exodus was litigation partner Timothy Foden, who moved over in April from Swiss practice LaLive; his arrival was followed by that of an associate in June and the firm's website currently lists five lawyers as being based in London. 

For its part, Pallas celebrated the arrival of its first lateral last month when Debevoise & Plimpton counsel Nelson Goh joined the office as its seventh partner. Goh, who spent two-and-a-half years at Boies Schiller’s London office before joining Debevoise in 2018, said he was attracted to the challenge Pallas presented as “a different kind of law firm” and highlighted its commitment to ESG and pro bono work. 

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