01 Oct 2021

Willkie opens London arbitration practice with WilmerHale partner hire

Disputes barrister Duncan Speller to lead new practice after almost two decades at WilmerHale

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Willkie Farr & Gallagher has hired disputes barrister Duncan Speller from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr to help launch the firm’s international arbitration practice in London.

Speller joins as a partner, adding to the US firm’s existing disputes and arbitration business in Paris. Speller has extensive experience in international commercial litigation and has represented clients in jurisdictions around the world, including New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as in London. His specialisms include aviation, oil and gas, insurance and reinsurance, telecoms, private equity, banking and competition law disputes.

Peter Burrell, head of Willkie’s litigation and compliance, investigations and enforcement group in London, said: “[Speller’s] arrival will formally establish our international arbitration practice in London and expand our existing litigation offering. He is an excellent addition to the deep bench of talent here at Willkie and his experience and track record in international arbitration will complement Willkie’s existing strengths.”

Speller spent almost two decades at WilmerHale, joining as an associate in 2002 and becoming a partner in 2013. He was also a former pupil at Fountain Court Chambers.

Tariq Mudiya, chair of Willkie’s litigation department, said: “Growing our international arbitration capabilities has been a strategic goal and the chance to add Duncan – one of the best lawyers in the field – was just too good to pass up. Adding Duncan to our London office will allow us to better leverage our market-leading practice in Europe, as well as expand the level of service we offer to our multinational clients.”

Speller’s recent cases include a high-value post-M&A arbitration in the private equity sector and multiple energy sector-related disputes.

Speller said: “I have seen Willkie’s London office take increasing market share over the past couple of years and believe its client base, dynamic growth and ambitions for the future are an excellent fit.”

Earlier this month, WilmerHale also lost prominent trade practice partner Naboth van den Broek to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in London.

Elsewhere in the disputes arena this month, HFW hired partner Karen Cheung from Li & Partners in Hong Kong, while Mishcon de Reya’s international arbitration head Karel Daele departed for Taylor Wessing.

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