Randy Holland: former US judge forges bridge with leading London chambers

‘Oversexed, overpaid and over here’ was a comic quip used by British soldiers to describe the thousands of American GIs who were stationed in Britain before D-Day. It was, of course, good humoured banter. Today’s march of US law firms in London is the modern equivalent of their wartime military counterparts: the likes of Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis and White & Case have made increasingly big strides with nearly 6,000 lawyers working for US firms in London. One Washington wag labels them “our most ominous export.”

Unlike America, England has a largely split legal profession: despite increasing rights of audience for solicitors, very few exercise them in the highest courts. The English Bar – comprised of barristers who appear in court arguing their client’s case – has therefore remained almost entirely immune to this American invasion. The vast majority of barristers are either British, or born within countries that comprise the British Commonwealth. But unusual things are happening at one set of barristers’ chambers, 3 Hare Court, which seems to be challenging this long established dynamic.

In April, Jeffrey Golden was appointed as joint Head of Chambers at 3 Hare Court – the first American lawyer to hold such a position at any English set of chambers. A specialist arbitrator rather than a barrister, Golden was formerly the founding partner of the US law practice at Allen & Overy, and before that, he practised for more than 15 years in the New York and London offices of Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Last month, 3 Hare Court announced that another distinguished American was joining their ranks: former Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, Randy Holland became a door tenant. To have international lawyers and former judges as door tenants is not unusual: Australian, Singaporean, South African and Indian nationals are common at many of the larger commercial sets. Not so Americans. Holland, therefore, is breaking fresh ground – something he has a track record of doing.

A self-confessed anglophile and a huge admirer of the English Bar, he is an Honorary Bencher at Lincoln’s Inn – one of only three Americans, the others being Justice Ginsburg (the second woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court) and former Justice Stevens who served on the Supreme Court from 1975-2010. Holland is also an honorary member of COMBAR, a past president of the American Inns of Court, co-author of a book on Middle Temple Lawyers and the American Revolution, and editor of a book about Magna Carta. His appointment at 3HC creates a further trans Atlantic bridge.

‘The advantage of the split profession in England is the teamwork that you see between barristers and solicitors,’ says Holland. ‘I have always been impressed by it. What I like about it is the litigation: how everyone tries their best to be helpful to the court, even though you’re an advocate in an adversarial system. No one would ever want to mislead the court. Everyone wants to be candid with the tribunal – to use a term that’s in our lawyers’ ethics, I’m just impressed with the high quality of the legal advocacy and also the civility.’

At the age of 39, Holland was appointed as the youngest ever Supreme Court Justice in Delaware, a position he held for 31 years before retiring from the bench last year. When he stepped down, the Delaware Supreme Court wanted to set up an endowment in his name to create an attorney position for indigent services. Their initial contribution was $200,000. As a mark of the esteem in which Holland is held, the legal community raised over $2m in five months to fund the position.

Delaware has the leading State commercial court, more influential in its sphere than the US Supreme Court. Although it has only a million citizens, almost two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in Delaware, while most IPOs on the NYSE and NASDAQ are from Delaware legal entities. ‘A lot of multinational corporations look to US law and Delaware corporations as a way of protecting their investments by promoting stability,’ says Holland.

So why did he join 3HC and where did he come from? ‘I’m from a family of very modest means and had to rely on scholarships to go to college,’ says Holland. After studying law at the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, he did not follow his classmates who mostly went to Wall Street corporate law firms. ‘I grew up in rural Delaware, and I always intended to go home to the country where I grew up,’ he says.

After practising by himself for six years, he became a partner in Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell. ‘It was a broad based practice, I appeared in every court in the state, before almost every judge,’ says Holland. Among the lawyers he worked closely with was Sam Dash, chief counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee. He later spoke at Dash’s funeral.

After only 14 years in practice, he was appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court. ‘I never aspired to be a judge,’ he says. ‘I was drafted, for want of a better term – I got a lot of encouragement.’  Delaware had a judicial selection appointment system based on merit, not election. Since retirement from the bench, Holland has also joined the Delaware office of Palo Alto based Wilson Sonsini, which is shortly opening a London office. In terms of his role at 3HC, Holland explains: ‘People call barristers’ chambers and sometimes they are looking for an arbitrator. I can’t go to court, but if someone calls chambers and would like to have an arbitrator with international experience, they can mention that I am affiliated with them.’

Holland has recently been in London, testifying as an expert witness in a commercial court case. ‘The day after I got back, I got an email from the chambers saying they had received an enquiry from someone looking for a US judge to be an expert witness on some aspect of US law. So I think I’ll be a resource for chambers.’ He agrees that he will also be an ambassador for 3HC ‘to the extent, I am well known in the United States and in London Circles when it becomes known that I am a door tenant there. That will be beneficial. It’s a great honour for me and I’m looking forward to my continued interaction with members of the English legal community.’

 

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