Herbert Smith, widely recognised as one of the UK's finest litigation firms, has been given a bollocking by a top judge for a disclosure exercise he described as "lackadaisical".

The firm has recently been working for Irish businessman Paddy McKillen, who is fighting the Barclay brothers over a set of up-market London hotels including Claridges. McKillen, who co-owns Dublin's Clarence Hotel with everyone's favourite egomaniac Bono, is trying to stop the Barclay brothers getting complete ownership of the company which owns the hotels.

McKillen already owns 36% of the shares and, according to a report in the Lawyer, one of the issues in the case is whether he had actively sought the cash to buy the disputed shares. Herbies fired off a letter last month claiming that McKillen had received only one unsolicited offer of funding.  But a few days later, a witness statement from McKillen's financial adviser contradicted this, revealing that there had been negotiations and discussions about funding with a plethora of parties.

  A spot of lackadaisical disclosure yesterday

All of which seemed to rile Richards J, who told Herbies that its letter was "substantially inaccurate" and rapped the firm's knuckles for a "lackadaisical" approach to work "which should have been done weeks ago". Not what you expect from the City's top dog litigators. But not the only recent criticism that's been dished out to the firm as only a couple of weeks ago, Herbies was on the receiving end of an embarrassing £135,000 wasted costs order.

With emerging litigation powerhouses such as Quinn Emanuel breathing down its neck, the firm is going to have to pull up its socks to retain its place as the go-to City firm for major litigation.

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