Jeffrey Golden.

 

When Capt. Harry Wales marries Meghan Markle, it will create a unique trans-Atlantic alliance: the first union between an English prince and an American actress.

But another trans-Atlantic first has taken place in the law in recent weeks, with the announcement of new co-heads at the chambers at 3 Hare Court—Simon Davenport QC and Jeffrey Golden. One is an English Queen’s Counsel, the other an American lawyer and a former partner at Allen & Overy.

“No one has come to such a role before at the English Bar because they were, or despite the fact that they were, an American lawyer,” said Golden.

This is not the first time that he has made a big splash. Having trained at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York, Golden then transferred to the firm’s London office. After 16 years with Cravath, he was appointed as the first U.S.-qualified partner at Allen & Overy in 1994. At the time, this move to a Magic Circle firm was groundbreaking—the first of its kind. It was expected to herald a rash of comparable hires, although it took several years before the pace of English and U.S. law firms competing directly in each other’s backyards really took off.

“Today, firms like A&O count more non-English than English-qualified partners,” said Golden.

It cuts both ways: There are more than 6,000 lawyers among the 80-plus U.S. law firms in London, billing more than $5 billion a year between them. But Golden is also unique for another reason: He is the first person to head an English set of barristers’ chambers who is not himself a barrister.

“In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to be at right places at right times. We think it’s pretty groundbreaking and being entrusted with the responsibility is a privilege,” he said. “We can’t disappoint people at 3 Hare Court because they think that they’re taking it to a place that nobody else has. They deserve credit for being brave, excited and enthused about heading down the path less well traveled by.”

Golden’s London links have a long history. Although he qualified as a lawyer in the United States, he also studied at the London School of Economics, where he met his future English wife (in the library), and more recently, became an honorary fellow and a governor. “When I arrived it was still shillings and pennies, and the city of London was full of bowler hats. I’m now co-head of a forward-looking set and surrounded by talent,” he said.

Among the lessons he learned at Cravath and at Allen & Overy was “the importance that you should attach to recruitment: no shortcuts”, he said. “I view recruitment in the same way that some people view buttering toast: if you get the corners right, the rest of it will take care of itself.”

An unambiguous Anglophile, Golden joined Hare Court in 2014 as a specialist arbitrator, mediator and expert in a wide range of capital markets matters, including swaps and derivatives, international equity and debt offerings, U.S. private placements and listings. He has acted extensively for the International Swaps and Derivatives Association Inc. (ISDA) and was a principal author of ISDA’s master agreements.

Of the more than 180 sets of chambers in London, some 30-plus have joint heads. ‘It’s becoming the new norm, particularly as chambers get bigger,” said Golden. It was Davenport’s idea that the two team up to offer chambers the double benefit of joint heads. Together they are open to expanding from its current base of 37 barristers by increasing the number of tenancies, and by inviting select individuals to join chambers.

“We certainly hope that expansion of our professional opportunities will come from strengthening existing ties that we have with leading [London] law firms, but also through building on our international network,” Golden said.

Both men identify international work as a common thread that runs through the practices of 3 Hare Court barristers. On being an American head of chambers in a distinctly English setting, he suggests: “The hybrid can be a lot stronger than its roots.”

So what makes a good head of chambers? “Trying to get the best out of what are already excellent people, channeling their creativity to maximize each opportunity, and effectively allowing them to shine,” said Davenport. “We’re here to clear the weeds from the undergrowth so that the flowers can shine through.”

Golden added that putting chambers ahead of oneself is an important part of that equation. “Bringing others along, realizing the potential that chambers represents collectively and the members individually,” he said. “It also involves setting a good example.”

The new co-heads see their role as “very hands on.” In practice, that means “fronting up decisions that need to be made and making them with considered thought, but swiftly,” Davenport said.

He also stressed the value of his and Golden’s different strengths and backgrounds. Barristers, he noted, ultimately have to look out for their own interest. But Golden is someone who has experience creating teams of people and creating opportunities for an entity. as opposed to just for themselves, he said.

“The problem that besets every chambers is that when a busy barrister becomes head and he or she is trying to keep his or her practice going, [the act of] trying to fit in being a head of chambers as best as he or she can, produces mixed results,” Davenport said. “In Jeff, we have somebody who has built teams at the highest possible level internationally, doing the best work that’s available. We’ve got it at the head of our chambers. In the 600 years that barristers’ chambers have been operating, there’s never been a moment like this.”

Golden said he does not fear new ideas but does fear some of the old ones.

“These are revolutionary times for the legal profession: alternative business structures, the globalization of English law, which has distinguished itself in so many ways,” he said.

He noted that the English Bar will have to face many challenges post-Brexit, including from recently announced “pop-up” courts in Europe, which aim to remove business from the U.K. to elsewhere.

“Those are challenges which beg creative, if not revolutionary, answers,” Golden said. “Rather than waiting for a road map or someone else to tell us what that answer is, we’re excited about trying to craft those answers ourselves.”