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Legal firms hopeful as markets improve

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A mood of guarded optimism among the region’s law firms has grown stronger over the past year, thanks to a positive trend in both corporate and commercial activity and real estate, according to the latest edition of the Legal 500 guide to the sector.

Following its merger, Ashton KCJ joins the regional heavyweights which include Eversheds LLP, Mills & Reeve LLP, Birketts LLP, Birkett Long LLP, Hewitsons LLP, Howes Percival LLP and Taylor Vinters.

The guide says many law firms continued to receive a steady stream of conveyancing and tax matters for small, family-owned farm businesses and large, multinational agribusinesses, while the sustained high values of agricultural land continued to encourage strategic land acquisitions.

Firms also continued to tap into the life sciences and IT industries, advising clients ranging from small, start-up businesses that have spun out of Cambridge University to well-established international technology companies in the city.

Mills & Reeve LLP and Taylor Vinters are active in this space, and Taylor Wessing LLP focuses exclusively on technology-related corporate and venture capital work. The guide says, Eversheds LLP stands out; its offices in Cambridge and Ipswich often act for the wider firm’s national clients, but also maintain client relationships with many of the region’s largest local businesses. Mills & Reeve LLP has a more regional focus to its client base, but also advises many national and international clients.

The guide says Birketts LLP’s Ipswich, Cambridge, Norwich and Chelmsford offices continue to develop strong reputations across East Anglia. “The relatively young Cambridge office is rapidly growing in size, and has proven that it is possible to carve out a niche in a city that many consider to be overlawyered,” says the guide.

The guide says the merger between Kester Cunningham John and Ashton Graham to create Ashton KCJ, “…achieves a considerable spread of resources across the region and brings together many complementary practices.” The firm also merged with Chambers & Co. in Norwich.

The guide says Hewitsons LLP maintains a strong brand in Cambridge. Norwich-based Howes Percival LLP attracts impressive local work in areas such as commercial property and insolvency, attracting instructions from government departments.

Taylor Vinters is described as having an excellent reputation around Cambridge, and has its sights set further afield through its London and Singapore offices. Meanwhile, Charles Russell LLP’s Cambridge office transferred in its entirety to Penningtons Solicitors LLP, including its busy corporate and employment teams.

In Essex, Birkett Long LLP is described as particularly strong in private client work and by opening an office in  Basildon, the firm has grown its already significant Essex presence.

Essex and London based law firm QualitySolicitors FJG  was highly recommended for several key legal services. The firm’s family team maintained its first tier ranking and its commercial litigation team now also has a first tier ranking having “strengthened its offering”. The firm’s employment team maintains a second tier ranking and the commercial property team gained a third tier ranking for the first time, whilst the corporate and commercial team also holds a third tier ranking. The fim’s education team received a notable mention.

Paula Fowler, managing partner at QS FJG said: "Our high rankings across several areas of individual and commercial law is evidence of the hard work and expertise of our highly skilled teams across Essex. Over the next 12 months we look forward to making our services even stronger and continuing our rise up the rankings."

Elsewhere, Tees Solicitors has merged with firms in Northampton and Milton Keynes and overhauled its business model, with chartered accountant Paul Stothard appointed its first chief executive.

During the year, Peterborough-based Greenwoods Solicitors LLP joined forces with Walker Wallis, establishing a presence in Cambridge through Walker Wallis’ team of corporate/commercial and dispute resolution partners. Elsewhere, Ward Gethin merged with Archer & Archer to become Ward Gethin Archer.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 November 2012 08:34 )