New law firm specialising in class actions opens in Manchester

Mark Lanier

A new law firm, focused on class actions, has launched in Manchester.

Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar and Roberts, operating in Spinningfields, will deal exclusively in group litigation, targeting corporate wrongdoing that has harmed people on a large scale.

It has been formed by two Manchester barristers who met as trainees in the same office more than a decade ago, and two US lawyers.

Tom Longstaff and Duncan Hedar, both barristers at Exchange Chambers in Manchester, are one half of the new firm, along with Mark Lanier, founder of Texas-based The Lanier Law Firm and its chief operating officer, Kevin Roberts.

Mark Lanier is one of America’s pre-eminent lawyers in the area of class actions, having secured successful verdicts worth billions of dollars for clients in a string of high profile cases.

They include more than $9bn from pharmaceutical companies accused of concealing cancer risks associated with the diabetes drug Actos, $1.5bn over metal-on-metal hip implants, and $4.7bn for 22 women and their families who alleged that Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-laden talcum powder products caused the women’s ovarian cancer.

The firm says no work is off limits but expects to focus on areas where UK lawyers have traditionally struggled, such as pharmaceutical and product liability, and competition litigation.

Tom said: “We see group litigation as a huge growth area in the UK, where many large companies have long got away with harming consumers.

“It is only in recent years that it has become easier to bring cases on behalf of groups of people in the UK, and the English legal profession has much to learn from the US in terms of how to run such cases effectively.“

Tom and Duncan, who are both from Yorkshire, met as trainee solicitors at DLA Piper in Leeds and worked alongside each other at Magic Circle firm Linklaters in London before being called to the Bar.

While being closer to family was their main motivation to move – Tom now lives in West Yorkshire and Duncan in Bramhall, Stockport – both look upon Manchester as the main legal hub outside London. Indeed, the launch of LLHR coincided with an announcement that the UK Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, will sit in Manchester next year – the first time outside of a capital city.

Tom said: “I have worked in Manchester for the last five years so have seen the huge amount of legal talent there is here, supported by excellent courts, and even more so now, post-pandemic, people realise they can achieve their career goals without necessarily working in London.

“It’s a thriving community to be a part of and we hope to add to that with Lanier, Longstaff, Hedar & Roberts LLP.”

Duncan, who also studied at The University of Manchester, said: “Manchester brings opportunity, there is a huge amount of talent that we will capitalise on. It also creates an opportunity to be one of the largest, if not the only firm dedicated to group litigation in the North.”

The new firm, an alternative business structure licensed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, will announce its first case in the coming weeks. It is also recruiting and expects to have around 15 staff by the end of its first year.

Mark said: “We see the UK as an emerging market for the work we do. The same injustices that we’ve seen in the US have affected people in the UK, too, and so we want to provide the same representation. The misuse of power is certainly not just an American phenomenon.”

Kevin said: “This is a growing area of legal practice in the UK, but many firms have swerved certain cases, such as product liability and pharmaceuticals, because they require significant know-how and resource to run. We will have both.

“This is a great opportunity for us to combine my and Mark’s knowledge of the business of class actions with Tom and Duncan’s legal expertise and understanding of the UK market.”