Veteran London shipping lawyer Mike Lax is ready for one last job, having staved off thoughts of retirement for now.

The litigation specialist was revealed this week to have joined Hannaford Turner as a partner, together with colleague Stuart Dench.

The duo had joined forces with Rosling King in 2021 through the merger of their Lax & Co operation into the bigger legal group.

“We were fortunate enough, thanks to having the right people, to have enjoyed a very successful 14 to 15 years with Lax & Co,” Lax told TradeWinds.

“But our lease ran out in 2021 and it was becoming increasingly difficult for even successful small practices to find the time to deal with all of the regulatory requirements of being a firm of solicitors.

“Added to this, the challenges of Covid and the fact that I was heading out of spring chicken territory into the old boiler league made us think it would be sensible to merge Lax & Co with another firm.

“At that time, through a mutual friend, Rosling King seemed to be the right choice.”

Lax & Co colleague Robert Pollock-Hill also joined the merged firm, but his contract expired in October 2023, six months before those of Lax and Dench.

Pollock-Hill decided that in the long term it made sense to look for a firm with more shipping support, “particularly since he would be moving away from the rest of us”, Lax explained.

“He found Hannaford Turner, who seemed an ideal fit: a top-tier firm when it came to ship sale and purchase, ship finance and commercial shipping work generally but who didn’t really have a litigation arm.”

Lax and Dench saw Pollock-Hill regularly and received glowing reports about Hannaford Turner: “Not only about the expertise of the lawyers but, just as importantly, about what a really great bunch of people they all were.”

Still enjoying the work

Lax had joined Rosling King on a two-and-a-half year contract, thinking it could be his last job before retirement.

“But I found I was still enjoying the law as much if not even more than ever, and the thoughts of retirement receded,” he told TradeWinds.

Rosling King had offered to renew his and Dench’s contracts, and Lax admits he was tempted.

But after talking to Pollock-Hill, he felt that joining Hannaford Turner and getting the Lax & Co team back together again “in the sort of environment that Robert had been describing was the better long-term prospect”.

“After meeting [founding partner] Matt Hannaford and then the other partners and staff, that view was reinforced and we very quickly agreed terms,” Lax added.

“We’ve only been together for two weeks but it already feels like we’re part of a family.”

Lax has more than 40 years of experience in dealing with shipping and maritime law matters.

He represented Russian shipowner Yuri Nikitin in a long-running High Court fraud trial in the UK involving Russian state shipping company Sovcomflot.

Lax is the former head of shipping and international trade at Lawrence Graham, where he spent 18 years. In 2007, he founded Lax & Co with Dench, also an ex-Lawrence Graham man.

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