Jane Colston is a litigator specialising in commercial banking, contract, fraud, tort and shareholder disputes. Jane is ranked in the top legal directories, which describe her as “excellent”, “an outstanding lawyer”, “extraordinarily strategic”, and “fierce, super-efficient, indefatigable and a winner”. Jane lectures at conferences for the IBA and C5, and is a member of the IBA litigation committee and the Commercial Fraud Lawyers Association. She is a trustee of law charity the International Law Book Facility.
How have you developed your litigation practice since you first began your career?
I trained and qualified in Hogan Lovells’ litigation department, and then joined Baker & McKenzie. In 2004 I co-founded one of the first City litigation boutiques before returning to an international platform.
At Brown Rudnick we deploy fully integrated civil law and common law global litigation teams, who have experience in dealing with cases in more than 65 countries, and we therefore have a truly international team. We offer something rare: cross-border civil fraud matched with criminal and regulatory expertise, which is essential when dealing with complex fraud litigation. All three disciplines are firmly entwined here.
What impact has the increasing use of third-party funding had on litigation in recent years?
Third-party funding has “forced” law firms to look at cases not just from a merits perspective of how it will be received by a judge, but more commercially, ie, how much will be recovered and when. Some now look at litigation as an asset that can be traded, monetised, portfolioed, leveraged or insured. This is causing law firms and clients to align better, particularly in terms of innovative pricing and risk sharing, which is increasing.
To this end, law firms have increasingly been using damages-based agreements or relying on insurance or capital solutions providers, or both, to smooth the litigation process and financing.
Also, traditional funders are being challenged by disruptive financiers who offer competitive pricing/merchant bank advisory, analysis and structuring strategies, and some ensure transparency since they publish all pricing. Interestingly, these new litigation financiers and risk mitigators are taking a genuine interest in partnering with a law firm on the basis of trust, as well as economics.
The judiciary has, for some time now, taken an interest in how cases are funded, with the aim of providing access to justice.
In your opinion, what impact will the witness evidence working group’s report have on witness statements?
Current practice relating to witness evidence in the business and property courts arguably does not achieve best evidence. The recommendations of the Witness Evidence Working Group (WG) are likely to go some way to redressing this.
I share the view of the WG that progress is likely to be better achieved through a light-touch approach, rather than any radical reform, such as doing away with witness statements altogether.
The courts’ promotion of the use of technology is welcomed, as the technology will curate and analyse data cost-efficiently and effectively, thereby shortening the time-consuming process of evidence gathering in witness statement preparation.
As an active member of multiple inclusivity initiatives, how do you think law firms can improve diversity?
I have been appointed Brown Rudnick’s equity, inclusion and diversity (EID) partner along with my New York partner, Chelsea Mullarney. We are taking over this important role from our Boston partner Sunni Beville, as she has now been promoted to managing director of dispute resolution and restructuring.
As part of Brown Rudnick’s commitment to breaking down barriers, we will participate directly in conversations regarding recruitment, integration, professional development, elevation and compensation.
Since 2016, Brown Rudnick, London has been hosting a Woman in Business/EID series, where we have asked inspirational business people to speak about their careers. The events are designed to promote diversity and, in doing so, open the legal profession to more. We had the pleasure of being joined by excellent speakers including Amber Rudd (while she was home secretary), Cressida Dick (Metropolitan Police commissioner) and Cath Kidston MBE (English fashion designer). The Honorable Mrs Justice Carr DBE will speak to us on 24 March 2020.
Brown Rudnick’s other EID initiatives include a social mobility fellowship (open to law students who are the first in their families to graduate from college); an “on ramp” fellowship (which supports experienced lawyers who are committed to returning to work after a career break); and adoption benefits.
I wholly support all the firm does to ensure diversity. It makes it a rich place to work.
What advice would you give to junior practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?
Be a strong team player. There is no “I” in team and when work gets tough, as it will in any high-stakes litigation, being constructive and supportive is key.
Don’t be scared to let your personality shine – diversity of thought means bringing different skills and perspectives to the table. There was a terrific article recently in The Times about how cognitive diversity helped the Bletchley Park team crack the Enigma Code.
Look for opportunities to get the experience that will make you a better lawyer and allow you to build meaningful business relationships. Balance emotional, physical and mental needs. Make time to move! Brown Rudnick sponsors weekly yoga for all, and I do my utmost to take that well-being time.