No business wants to be caught up in expensive, time-consuming litigation, but sometimes it can be impossible to avoid a legal dispute. In such instances, having the best possible team in your corner is invaluable – and Yorkshire-based companies looking for the best should consider looking closer to home.
Leeds is a growing hotspot for commercial litigation expertise, with some of the world’s largest firms setting up shop recently. Locally top-ranked Stewarts was ahead of the curve, founding a Commercial Litigation team in Leeds in 2013 led by Mo Bhaskaran and building a reputation both locally and beyond as a comparable force to the leading lights of the City.
Nick Haworth joined Stewarts in 2014, having trained at a UK top 20 firm and qualified into the commercial litigation team there in 2008. With experience acting on both the landmark ‘interchange fee’ litigation brought against Visa and Mastercard on the basis that they operated alleged cartel arrangements in connection with their charging structures, and multiple huge claims brought against the UK government, Nick has played a leading role in the Leeds commercial disputes team’s development.
“No two days are the same for a commercial litigator, and the greatest attraction of this practice is how varied the cases are,” Nick says. “I think it is fair and accurate to say that our work is stressful and enjoyable in equal measure. The demands we face are always an interesting challenge.”
Fellow partner Martin Walsh had a similar journey, making the move to Stewarts in 2016. Martin’s specialisms include technology and telecoms disputes, acting for both private companies and public bodies when contractual relationships and projects go sour. “It is easy to underestimate how vital telecoms and IT systems are to a business, and disputes in that area are often business critical,” Martin says. “As well as the tricky legal points, we also need to grapple with the complexities of the technology involved.”
The future is now
This is an exciting time to be a litigator. Changes to the global status quo inevitably lead to disputes between businesses, government organisations and individuals, and the last few years have been as turbulent as any in living memory. Covid-19, Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, ESG and climate change, artificial intelligence, the rise of cryptocurrency… all are driving waves of litigation that are raising novel questions for businesses and their legal teams.
“The team is currently managing one of the largest alleged corruption cases in the UK, a fiercely-contested dispute valued at $1 billion and involving over 20 defendants advised on by a number of elite UK and US firms,” Nick reveals.
With offices in Leeds and London, Stewarts is uniquely placed to meet the challenges of the modern day. The firm has built a market-busting reputation and regularly goes toe-to-toe with the magic circle giants that traditionally dominate heavyweight litigation in the UK. This was confirmed in recent analysis by The Lawyer of its top 20 cases of each year since 2013: Stewarts was the only firm in the top 10 list with fewer than 200 lawyers.
“The quality of the work at Stewarts is a cut above the rest,” Nick says. “Because we as a firm only deal with litigation, the focus of all our investment is put into the right support structure to hire and develop the very best litigation talent. This enables us to deliver a unique service that competes with and goes beyond that of much larger firms, which have to worry about maintaining the balance with their transactional and other practices.”
Stewarts leverages its platform as the country’s largest disputes-only firm to act for household name clients in cases that regularly hit the headlines, legal or otherwise. The market experts in the Commercial Litigation team are also able to draw on the deep experience of tax, competition, employment, insurance and insolvency specialists.
Martin adds: “We have all the usual benefits of a large law firm, acting on large complex cases, but Stewarts always encourages creativity and provides opportunity for individuals to bring their own ideas to the table.” He credits “always available and approachable” senior management with maintaining the firm’s culture throughout its rapid growth from a firm of six founding partners to the 80 that call Stewarts home today.
The pandemic has shifted everyone’s perception of geography, with hybrid working becoming the norm across the legal industry, and close collaboration between teams is more important than ever. “Nothing is better for an individual lawyer’s development than working as part of a team with excellent colleagues,” Martin says. “Working with people from both the Leeds and London offices each and every week, I am constantly reminded of how important that is.”
Legal disputes are some of the most daunting challenges a business can face, which the best litigators well understand. That carries across to how they deal with clients: “Nobody wants legal advice that reads like a textbook,” Martin notes. “It is an essential skill to provide our advice in a way that helps the client fully understand their own individual circumstances, and make informed decisions based on all of the information available. There are plenty of lawyers who can provide accurate legal advice; the real advantage in this market is the ability to connect with clients and think tactically as they do.”
When the economy hits hard times, litigation is almost certain to follow. Businesses and individuals alike will need to rely ever more closely on the very best advice available.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Commercial Litigation pages.
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