Suffolk law firms attract new clients

SUFFOLK'S leading law firms are continuing the trend of attracting both new work and new talent to the county, according to the 2007 edition of The Legal 500.

SUFFOLK'S leading law firms are continuing the trend of attracting both new work and new talent to the county, according to the 2007 edition of The Legal 500.

The annual guide to the UK's top law firms names Birketts among its “regional heavweights” for East Anglia (covering Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire), with the Ipswich-based firm continuing to expand its presence through its Norwich office, opened in 2004.

Birketts also “attracts good recruits from London, such as the recent hire of private client partner Tim Galloway from Charles Russell LLP,” the guide adds.

Eversheds' Ipswich office continues largely to serve a national client base rather than the local market while Ipswich-based Prettys - which recently opened a new office in Chelmsford - remains the largest full-service law firm in Suffolk.

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Outside of the county town, Greene & Greene also warrants a mention in the regional summary, having “drawn national clients and work from Ipswich and Norwich to its office in Bury St Edmunds”.

So too does Kester Cunningham John, which includes offices in Bury St Edmunds, which is described as “an increasingly important local player in many practice areas.”

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In the key Corporate and Commercial sector, Birketts scores a top ranking in Ipswich with recent highlights for the team, led by James Austin, having included representing Valpak in its acquisition of the Waste Management Group and Graham Dacre on the sale of the Lind motor dealership to Inchcape for £108million.

Ashton Graham and Prettys share a second tier ranking for Corporate and Commercial. The guide notes the addition to the Ashton Graham team of Jonathan Rands and Petra Sharp, previously at Gotelee & Goldsmith, and highlights the role of Prettys in transactions including the £4million sale of Newmarket Laboratories.

Third tier rankings go to Blocks, Gotelee & Goldsmith and Kerseys, where managing partner Graham Nunn is singled out for his advice on commercial contracts.

Outside of Ipswich, Greene & Greene, Kester Cunningham John and the Bury St Edmunds office of Ashton Graham share top ranking for Corporate and Commercial, with second tier rankings for Bates, Wells & Braithwait of Sudbury, the Felixstowe office of Blocks, Gross & Co of Bury, Nicholsons of Lowestoft and Rustons & Lloyd of Newmarket.

Greene & Greene was involved in business sales including Pri-med (to Healthcare Homes), Shelbourne Reynolds Engineering and CCL Foods while Kester Cunningham John included a large management buy-out, a £2million nursing home acquisition and the £1.4million disposal of a private school among its highlights.

Birketts also receives the only top tier ranking in Ipswich for Commercial Litigation, with departmental head Bob Wright mentioned for settling a claim of negligence against HM Land Registry during the year.

Prettys scores a second tier ranking, with departmental head Roland Sharp and colleague Peter Blake both mentioned for their work, and Kerseys receives a third tier ranking, with recent work having ranged from a passing-off action involving a national travel company to a village green dispute.

Birketts, Prettys and the Bury office of Ashton Graham each gain a top ranking for Debt Recovery, with those ranked second in the region also including Gotelee & Goldsmith and the Ipswich office of Blocks.

With a second and third tier rankings respectively, Birketts is also Suffolk's top-rated firm for both Banking and Finance and Pensions while Prettys and Nicholsons are highest placed in the county for Insolvency and Corporate Recovery, sharing a third tier ranking.

Ashton Graham, Birketts, Gotelee & Goldsmith, Prettys and Ipswich niche practice Quantrills are equal top in the county for Employment, sharing a second tier ranking, with third tier rankings also for Blocks of Ipswich and Gross & Co in Bury St Edmunds.

Matthew Potter of Ashton Graham, Brian Morron of Gotelee & Goldsmith, Simon Quantrill, founder of Quantrills, and Frances Barker of Blocks are among the individuals mentioned.

Birketts scores a top-tier ranking for Health and Safety, with its work having included advising a contractor on a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation resulting from the Gerrards Cross rail tunnel collapse in 2005 and a national food company facing an HSE prosecution following a serious factory accident.

There are second tier rankings for Health and Safety in Ipswich for Ashton Graham and Gotelee & Goldsmith.

Another top tier ranking goes to Birketts for Commercial Property, with Ashton Graham, Gotelee & Goldsmith and Prettys jointly ranked second in Ipswich and Barker Gotelee, Blocks and Kerseys third.

Elsewhere in the county, there are top tier ratings in Commercial Property for Greene & Greene together with the Bury offices of Ashton Graham and Kester Cunningham John.

Birketts and the Bury office of Kester Cunningham John are top rated in Suffolk respectively for Property Litigation and Planning, with a second tier ranking in each case.

Birketts and Prettys each receive a top tier ranking for both Shipping and Transport, with Barker Gotelee and Gotelee & Goldmsmith also top ranked for Transport.

Niche firm John Weston & Co of Felixstowe receives a second tier ranking for both Shipping and Transport, with Dale Stevens, also of Felixstowe, ranked third and second respectively in the same categories.

Prettys also receives a second tier ranking for Sport, with its involvement in the sector including employment work for Ipswich Town FC.

Barker Gotelee, based at Martlesham Heath, near Ipswich, is Suffolk's highest-rated firm for EU and Competition work, with a second tier ranking, behind Cambridge heavyweights Hewitsons and Taylor Vinters.

The firm's co-founder, Richard Barker, is mentioned for his work in advising the Meat and Livestock Commission on state aid in agriculture and a UK regional authority on EU funding as well as advising local landowners on compliance and capping issues.

Birketts has Suffolk's only top tier ranking for Agriculture and Estates, with James Harbottle mentioned for handling the £12million purchase of an estate in Lincolnshire for Danish clients and the arrival of Tim Galloway noted as having strengthened the agricultural tax practice.

Second tier rankings go to Barker Gotelee, which besides the MLC also works for the English Beef and Lamb Executive, the English Pig Executive and the Cambridge Farmers' Co-operative, and to the Newmarket office of Roythornes, the only East Anglian panel firm for the National Farmers' Union.

Newmarket firms Edmondson Hall and Rustons & Lloyd share a second tier ranking for Bloostock, behind regional leader Taylor Vinters in Cambridge, with Prettys scoring a third tier ranking following an increase in bloodstock work by Roland Sharp.

The Ipswich office of Eversheds scores a further top ranking for Private Finance Initiative work while Birketts and the Bury office of Kester Cunningham John lead the way in Suffolk for Public Sector work with third tier rankings. The Ipswich office of Blocks scores a top ranking for Social Housing.

Barker Gotelee and Prettys share a top ranking in Ipswich for Personal Tax, Trusts and Probate, with second tier ratings for Ashton Graham, Birketts, Gotelee & Goldsmith and Kerseys. Outside of Ipswich, there are top tier rankings for the Bury office of Ashton Graham and for Greene & Greene.

Gotelee & Goldsmith scores the county's only top tier ranking for Crime with its team, led by Hugh Rowland, having moved away from legal aid work towards areas such as business crime, fraud, regulatory offences, trading standards and road haulage disputes.

Kester Cunningham John is the region's top rated firm for both Clinical Negligence - Claimant and Personal Injury - Claimant work, with Ashton Graham and Gotelee & Goldsmith receiving second and third tier rankings respectively in the Personal Injury - Claimant category.

Eversheds' Ipswich office has the region's top ranking for Personal Injury - Defendant work, with a second tier ranking for Birketts and a third for Prettys.

Bates, Wells & Braithwait and Birketts share Suffolk's top rating for Charities work, each with a second tier ranking, while Kerseys and the Bury office of Kester Cunningham John are top for Family law, also each with a second tier ranking.

The Legal 500 Leading Individuals with Suffolk Firms

(in alphabetical order)

James Austin, Birkets (Corporate and Commercial)

Richard Barker, Barker Gotelee (Agriculture and Estates)

Robert Gair, Ashton Graham (Personal Injury Claimant)

Robert Gibbs, Birketts (Commercial Property)

Chris Gilbert, Kester Cunningham John (Construction)

Simon John, Kester Cunningham John (Clinical Negligence Claimant)

Bob McGeady, Kester Cunningham John (Planning)

Jonathan Ripman, Gotelee & Goldsmith (Commercial Litigation, Transport)

Max Roessler, Birketts (Commercial Litigation)

Andrew Rush, Birketts (Construction)

Graham Smith, Roythornes (Agriculture and Estates)

Ian Waine, Prettys (Corporate and Commercial)

John Weston, John Weston & Co (Transport)

Annette Whybrow, Birketts (Corporate and Commercial)

Bob Wright, Birketts (Commercial Litigation)

The Legal 500 Top Firms in East Anglia (ranked by number of fee-earners in the region)

1 Mills & Reeve 278

2 Eversheds 155

3 Birketts 116

4 Taylor Vinters 113

5 Kester Cunningham John 87

6 Ashton Graham 77

7 Steeles 74

8 Hansells 72

9 Hewitsons 69

10 Fosters 56

11 Prettys 55

12 Howes Percival 53

13 Greenwoods 52

14 Norton Peskett 50

15 Gotelee & Goldsmith 48

16 Metcalfe, Copeman & Pettefar 46

17 Buckles 39

18 Dawbarns Pearson 38

19 Dozens-Hardy 36

= Hatch Brenner 36

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