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People and business: Call to action

A CITY lawyer who played rugby for Cambridge, championed the boxer Lennox Lewis and represented 250 depositors in BCCI who were owed $2bn, is setting up on his own.

Bernard Clarke is leaving City law firm Memery Crystal to launch his own practice dealing in commercial litigation and insolvency.

The former rugby Blue who played open side flanker for Cambridge says now is the time to take advantage of huge changes in the way civil law is run in this country.

"Lord Woolf's reforms mean an end to `trench warfare' in civil litigation," proclaims Mr Clarke.

"There is a sea-change which most solicitors have failed to grasp. Cases will be streamlined and judges will have a role in administering them. The age of litigants exchanging brickbats for years and years is over."

Mr Clarke is setting up on a "greenfield site" and is "hiring lots of young lawyers who haven't been ingrained with the past," he says.

His firm, Bernard Clarke & Co, will take advantage of last year's rule changes which allow lawyers to take cases on a conditional fee basis. It will also spearhead litigation cost insurance, an intriguing development which enables litigants to insure against the possible costs of losing their case, even after they have launched the action.

5 E-mail: j.willcock@independent.co.uk