Legal firms consider international solutions

Gaunt Parters: John Gaunt
Gaunt Parters: John Gaunt
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Leading Yorkshire law firms have been looking further afield in international markets and picking up work that has been priced out of London in a bid to combat the effects of the recession.

Employee numbers and fee levels have fallen, according to the latest edition of the Legal 500, viewed by many as the definitive source of information when it comes to selecting a law firm to advise their business.

But while larger and smaller firms shed staff, middle ranked firms have reaped the benefits of the decline, picking up talented lawyers from all levels of the market.

The move into international markets has helped Yorkshire law firms to overcome a decline in conventional ‘big-ticket’ work on mergers and acquisitions, banking and real estate, according to the Legal 500.

Meanwhile, real estate litigation has increased as a result of the economic climate, but has not reached the levels many had expected.

DLA Piper continues to hold its own among leading regional heavyweights and is hailed by the Legal 500 as ‘a dominant force across both Leeds and Sheffield’ that particularly excels in corporate, real estate, and environmental law. Irwin Mitchell and Nabarro are the sole occupants of the second tier.

The Legal 500 hails Irwin Mitchell as a key player in both Sheffield and Leeds and the dominant force in the personal injury market which has also come to the fore because of its business services side and strength in commercial litigation.

Nabarro is described as ‘a solid player in Sheffield’ and ‘an undisputed leader’ in real estate which has gained added depth on the financial side, following the appointment of banking specialist Dean Gormley from defunct law firm Halliwells.

The Legal 500 highlights the advances made in its first full year in the region by Hill Dickinson, which has become home to a number of former Halliwells partners, including highly respected regional chief Neil Thompson, one of five Sheffield lawyers listed among leading individuals in the legal profession.

Leading individuals include Irwin Mitchell’s national managing partner, personal injury expert John Pickering and the firm’s Sheffield-based regional chief, commercial property expert Paul Firth; John Gaunt, founder of licensing specialist John Gaunt & Partners and Teresa Hitchcock, Sheffield-based UK head of the division within regulatory and government affairs group which deals with safety, health and environmental issues.

Three mergers involving Sheffield firms are highlighted by the Legal 500 – between Keeble Hawson and Hlw Commercial Lawyers to form Hlw Keeble Hawson; the merging of Hallam Mediation in to Taylor & Emmet, to augment its family law service and the combination of Lupton Fawcett and Davidson Large, the Harrogate & Tees Valley commercial specialist.