Partner, London

Who? Richard Leedham, partner, Mishcon de Reya, London.

Why is he in the news? The firm acted for the Hiscox Action Group at all stages of a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) test case to determine whether small businesses hit by Covid-19 should receive insurance payouts. A Supreme Court judgment last month substantially allowed the FCA’s appeal and dismissed the insurers’ appeals.

Thoughts on the case: ‘It has been a genuine groundbreaking case – using a hitherto unused procedure in the Financial Markets List, proceeding at high speed, during the pandemic, with all hearings held remotely, start to finish, from issue of claim form to Supreme Court judgment in seven months.

‘Much of the credit for that goes to the FCA and its team, but we also had the added task of intervening for the Hiscox Action Group and ensuring the voices of actual policyholders were heard.

‘It has been pleasing that the seven senior judges who heard the case all agreed with our initial analysis that insurers’ reliance on the “but for” test in insurance – there is only cover if the loss would not have occurred for any other reason – was simply not how one approaches coverage issues and there was over-reliance on an outlier case: the Orient Express decision. 

‘What should not be overlooked is the court decided points of principle. The fight now starts to get insurers to pay the claims they should. We have a group of 400 SMEs that face a daily battle to stay alive, which is hindered by the lack of insurance money. It has been humbling to work on something where the needs of the clients are so great and so obvious, and where we can as commercial lawyers for once make a difference. We could only do this by having such a well-organised steering committee instructing us on behalf of the group and with the funds provided by leading litigation funder, Harbour.’

Hiscox said on its website: ‘Hiscox welcomes the clarity that the judgment provides and the processing of claims has begun.’

Dealing with the media: ‘By and large very enjoyable. We had 80 mentions/conversations/articles on Friday alone. Doing live TV via Zoom into your laptop is a little disconcerting, and I did get some grief for failing to turn off my email alert “pinger” on BBC News.’

Why become a lawyer: ‘When I realised that to be a writer, I would have to start writing something. Law seemed the next best option.’

Career high: ‘Aside from this case, difficult to reflect too much on cases won, as others are lost, but a couple of big wins for Standard Life stand out.’