Legal Review: Bath firms play to their strengths as competition increases

September 26, 2012

Bath’s law firms are celebrating their success in gaining positive comments in this year’s Legal 500, the industry’s respected reference tool.

The city’s two largest firms, Thrings and Withy King, are listed among the South West’s ‘regional heavyweights’ – a table dominated by Bristol firms.

Things is also named among the top firms for corporate and commercial work by the Legal 500.

The book says Thrings  “has formidable expertise and coverage along the M4 corridor and has seen growth in insolvency and commercial litigation”, while Withy Kinghas seen growth in personal injury, clinical negligence and Court of Protection work”.

Legal 500 also highlights Bath firm Stone King as being “notable”.

Thrings is described as “a strong regional firm” with high-profile clients including Honda and MAN Truck & Bus. The three-partner team acted for Watson Petroleum on the purchase of Nigel Collison Fuels. Team head John Davies and senior partner Jonathan Payne are both “excellent, with rapid response times”.

Stone King’s Roy Butler advises many charities and other institutions on corporate and commercial matters.

Competent and helpful” is how Legal 500 describes Withy King’s team, which acts for clients including Equilibrium Wealth Management and Handelsbanken. It also acted for Porchester Equity on the creation of a new business structure. Alex Pyatt is noted for his “good knowledge and service, and fast response times” while team head David Cavaliero is also recommended.

In crime, fraud and licensing, experienced advocate Andrew Banks heads Stone King’s team, which acts in numerous cases of murder and serious white-collar fraud. The firm also has a practice focusing on regulatory breaches by schools and care homes.

The same firm’s “very timely and efficient” commercial litigation team has core expertise in education, charity and contentious probate disputes, and acted in a High Court action concerning terms of lease and the effect of a Charity Commission Scheme. Paul Sutton “gives good advice which is appropriate to the organisation and the circumstances of the case”, says Legal 500.

Thringsactive and punchy” team is particularly known for its expertise in automotive, defence and aerospace disputes. Recent matters include acting for MAN Truck and Bus UK on issues arising from the M4 Bryn Glas tunnel fire, and other clients include Mint Financial Services and Citipost AMP. Andrew Herridge is recommended.

Withy King’s “very responsive and very service-focused” group acted for Bath Youth Rugby regarding the distribution and realisation of trust assets, and also represents Bath Building Society and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Team head Chris Kane is a “very intelligent and seasoned lawyer who grasps issues quickly and forms practical recommendations”.

In insolvency and corporate recovery work, Thrings’ advice is “thoughtful, focused and rooted in commerciality”. The team is experienced in advisory and transactional work for mid-size businesses and actions against directors. Mark Cullingford is “non-judgemental, astute and pragmatic”.

Withy King’s Philip Banks-Welsh acts for a number of established IPs on insolvency matters.

Charity and education clients provide the bulk of Stone King’s employment instructions. Nick Watson leads, and Peter Woodhouse is “extremely capable in litigation”.

Withy King is ranked among the region’s best for clinical negligence (claimant). It has a reputation for complex birth injury cases and a growing dental negligence practice, and handles an increasing number of Court of Protection cases. Paul Rumley is recognised for his wide-ranging expertise and parliamentary lobbying. The well-respected Simon Elliman heads the team.

Withy King is also ranked among the top tier for personal injury work. Practice head Louise Hart continues to build on the firm’s reputation for catastrophic injury and fatal accident claims. High-value brain and spinal injury cases are a niche area of expertise for Court of Protection approved deputy Stuart Brazington.

Thrings is in the regional top tier for private client (agriculture and estates). Peter Cusick heads the sizeable team at the firm, which recently acted for Fruition in a High Court judicial review. It also assisted prominent Isle of Wight farmer Brownrigg Poultry, and regularly handles substantial matters for the NFU. Duncan Sigournay is recommended for tenancy work.

Withy King’s top-tier bloodstock practice spans the spectrum of contentious and non-contentious equestrian advice. Andrew Chalk specialises in racing, bloodstock and commercial contracts. Richard Brooks manages dispute resolution and regulatory work before the disciplinary panel at the BHA. Clients include jockey-turned-trainer Paul Fitzsimmons.

Stone King is the South West’s leading charity firm. It won the tender to register Wikimedia UK for charitable status, and has also been advising Debra, a medical charity with a portfolio of more than 130 charity shops. The team, led by Jonathan Burchfield, has “superb understanding of the inner workings of the Charity Commission”.

Stone King, Withy King and Thrings all appear in second string for family law.

Stone King’s caseload includes complex nondomicile matters as well as multi-party and collaborative negotiations. The “overall level of service is extremely high, and well” by practice head John Brownrigg, who is highly recommended in cases involving complex structures of business and agricultural interests, trusts and pensions, and recently represented a society figure with inherited family assets and foreign property valued at over £10m.

Richard Ellis at Withy King has child protection expertise and recently acted in complex care proceedings with an international element. Jon Toogood is an accredited specialist in matrimonial advocacy and pensions, and acts in high-value divorce cases.

Michael Young heads Thrings’ “impressive” tax and trusts team, which also includes the recommended Elizabeth Evans.

Withy King’s Amanda Noyce takes the lead in contentious work; she is “very calm, considerate and obviously very experienced”. James McNeile heads the team.

Stone King’s practice head Alison Allen and Andrew Mortimer are recommended.

In public sector work, Stone King advises independent and maintained schools on a range of employment, health and safety, admissions and pastoral issues. Michael King’s team is highly regarded for its academy work, and senior associate Michael Brotherton is also recommended.

Thringsdelivers on all fronts” for Real estate. Colin Stratton has “a natural ability to simplify complex issues and communicates well with clients”.

When it comes to commercial property Thrings is “second to none”, and has specialisms in secured lending, corporate occupiers and pension fund property. Clients include Future Publishing and Clydesdale Bank. Warren Reid’s team includes Alex Pinhey and Rosalind Sopel, who have “a vast amount of pensions knowledge’"and "a real willingness to help”.

Withy King provides “exemplary service at a fair price” and “gets the results clients need”. It has specialisms in care home, pension property, retail, charity, and property investment work, and acts for clients including St John’s Hospital and Gold Care Homes Group. Team head Paul Daniels is recommended.

Stone King gives excellent representation to schools and charities; Stephanie Howarth’s team acts for clients including Downside School, St John’s Hospital and the YWCA. Hugh Pearce is also recommended.

In construction, Thrings’ team is “technically astute and extremely well informed”, and acts for clients including English Heritage and Mercury Engineering. It advised on the building of a Holiday Inn Express in Windsor. Eric Livingston (formerly at Ashfords) and Steve McCombe are “very approachable and extremely knowledgeable in construction law”.

Withy King’s team provides “good, well-balanced advice”, and acts for clients including Redcliffe Homes and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Education and charity matters are prominent specialisms. Louise Garcia is “extremely client focused, highly competent and an excellent and persuasive communicator”.

Thrings’ “excellent” environment team is “highly competent”, and “looks after its clients with great care”. Alex Madden handles contentious and non-contentious matters, and is “knowledgeable and down to earth”.

In property litigation, Thrings’ Michael Tatters is recommended. Withy King’s Caroline Preist is “honest in her approach to each case and guides the client in every situation”.

Andy Braithwaite and his TMT (technology, media, telecoms) team at Thrings are “approachable and responsive”. Clients include Thomson Directories and AXA Technology.

Withy King’s TMT team is led by Jessica Bent. It acts for telecoms clients such as Applicable and Smarter Mobile as well as Playforce Limited and the HorseWorld Trust.

Thrings' IP team represents Bath Rugby Club, MAN Truck and Bus, and Bath’s Lovehoney. Graeme Fearonis is “always considers the wider angle”.

Withy King’s Jessica Bent and David Cavaliero are recommended.

Thrings’ media and entertainment team, led by Graeme Fearon, acted for Boxing Channel Media and Jem Music International.

Jessica Bent’s team at Withy King is instructed by Leiths School of Food and Wine and a variety of film, music and production companies.

In sports law, Andy Braithwaite at Thrings leads advice to Bath Rugby Club, Ryder Cup Europe and Gaming International Limited.

Thrings managing partner Thomas Sheppard said: “I am very pleased to have Thrings recognised as a strong regional player in the commercial market, which complements our historic reputation for quality in other areas.

“We have a number of very talented people in our organisation and to have such a number celebrated as leaders in their sectors is testament to their skills and dedication to our clients.  At Thrings we pride ourselves on knowing that our clients will receive specialist advice from sensible, experienced lawyers who are based locally.

“Our on-going vision for the firm is to be recognised as a specialist advisory practice, and inclusion in the Legal 500 for our commercial, agricultural, family and finance teams – among others – is great acknowledgement that we provide excellence in what we do.”

Withy King managing partner Graham Street said: “It’s gratifying to see Withy King climbing the legal rankings and being recognised for the quality of its work. What’s more important though is that clients are providing such positive feedback, reflecting our total commitment to finding solutions to the challenges they face – whether that’s in business or in their personal or family lives.

“We are intent on building a firm which is relevant to people today and in the future. This ethos is reflected in our continued investment in our existing teams as well as in attracting the brightest and most talented solicitors to come and join us.” 





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