LEGAL 500: Sheffield law firms are finally on road to recovery

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Sheffield is the region’s second-largest legal market and although it continues to be hampered by economic hardship, financial recovery is on the horizon, according to industry bible the Legal 500.

The annual survey of law firms, published every September, shows DLA Piper maintaining its position as a top tier ‘regional heavyweight’. The firm has a floor in the city’s most prestigious office block, St Paul’s Place.

Legal 500 researchers say that as well as undertaking work with an increasingly international profile, DLA Piper UK LLP’s offices in Leeds and Sheffield remain ‘national centres of excellence’ in areas such as manufacturing, and mining and minerals.

Irwin Mitchell, which has its national head office on Millsands in the city centre, is the next-ranked firm with regional clout.

The firm continues to invest heavily in its business legal services team, aim to handle commercial matters with a more personal touch. The Leeds office remains a satellite of the firm’s dominant Sheffield office, the Legal 500 says.

At Sheffield-based Nabarro LLP, the firm’s ‘likeable’ lawyers have seen an upsurge in traditional M&A work and continue to be dominant in the firm’s traditional strength of real estate.

The report also states Sheffield’s legal market, fuelled by the city’s manufacturing core, is somewhat less saturated than that of Leeds, and continues to prove tempting to other regional firms.

Following Freeths and Lupton Fawcett Denison Till into the city, Shakespeare Martineau LLP kept legal observers attentive with its on-off takeover of HLW Keeble Hawson, though the end result was ultimately unfruitful.

Regionally, commercial property work has seen a healthy increase, particularly in housebuilding, partly due to institutional investment into the private rented sector. Though the region is not noted as a FTSE stronghold, there is no shortage of small and medium size companies and there has been an undeniable rise in corporate transactions.

Elsewhere, there is change in the debt recovery market as a result of impending Financial Conduct Authority regulation, the likely consequence being consolidation of the market as smaller players prove reluctant to maintain the infrastructure required to meet such scrutiny.

The Big Six regional heavyweights – including DLA Piper – continue to move work out of London to save money, known as ‘north-shoring’.

The Legal 500 states, ‘Although it is true that regional focus is subject to ebb and flow, these firms still carry out more than their fair share of the most significant legal work in the region.’

The full 2015 report is available at www.legal500.com