27 July 2020

Twenty Essex hires former Debevoise & Plimpton partner to bolster arbitration practice

Wendy Miles QC

Wendy Miles QC joins barristers' set after three years in Debevoise's London office

Debevoise & Plimpton’s former London arbitration partner Wendy Miles QC has joined leading London barristers’ set Twenty Essex, where she will practice both as an arbitrator and counsel.

Miles, who was appointed silk in 2015, leaves Debevoise three years after joining from Boies Schiller & Flexner, where she was also a partner. Miles earlier worked for more than 10 years at Wilmer Cutler Hale Pickering & Dorr’s fabled stable of leading arbitration lawyers, headed by Gary Born. 

She qualified as a solicitor in both her native New Zealand and in England & Wales, and was called to the Bar in joining chambers. 

Duncan Matthews QC, co-head of the set, said Miles’s arrival was timely, showing that “even in these strange times the set continues to strengthen its arbitration offering.” 

He added: “Her particular emphasis on energy, natural resources and climate change work, where we are already breaking new ground, brings welcome firepower.”

Miles brings with her more than two decades of experience in the set’s core strengths of international arbitration and public international law. She also has familiarity with complex cases under all major institutional rules—including the energy sector, where her insights will be keenly sought, especially given energy market volatility.

Miles has also been actively involved in climate change litigation, an area of interest to her new set, and increasingly to clients. She has acted as counsel for clients in cases involving adaptation to the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, on which subject she has represented the International Chamber of Commerce.

Disruption, said Miles, was “a powerful change agent”, adding that “as business and industry emerge from the pandemic and states increasingly focus on creating conditions for recovery and transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions,” her new set was equally focused in adjusting its own services to the new reality.

Miles brings with her tremendous goodwill among the arbitral community, including from former colleagues, in a move which allows her to focus on her advocacy and to deepen her career as an arbitrator without fear of conflicts or the attendant pressures of partnership.

She said: “It is tremendously exciting to be able to offer my services as counsel and arbitrator from the Bar with all the flexibility that offers,” given the set’s core areas of practice. She is the latest addition to the set’s list of female arbitrators, which includes former Allen & Overy head of arbitration Judith Gill QC, as well as Clare Ambrose and Sara Masters QC.

Lord Goldsmith QC, head of European and Asian litigation at Debevoise, said: “Wendy leaves with our best wishes for her next challenge,” thanking her for her work in growing the practice and setting new standards in its core business. 

The hire is a significant boost for the set, not just for Matthews—who was re-appointed as co-head recently—but also to Stephen Atherton QC, who was appointed as the new co-head of the set, replacing former COMBAR chairman Chris Hancock QC after six years in the role.

Atherton, a leading insolvency silk, joined in 2018 from South Square and is expected to drive the set’s interests in civil fraud, insolvency, and commercial litigation, together with CEO Jemma Tagg.

Matthews said: “We continue to expand the depth and range of our international disputes work, [and] we are happy to continue to attract the right talent to chambers.” 

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