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2017 Legal 500 results!

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Another successful year for Birkett Long in the 2017 Legal 500, ranked as a Top Tier firm in Essex!

Claire Read and Melanie Bache have again been listed in the elite leading lawyers list for another year running!

Comentary of our teams from Legal 500 below:

Corporate and commercial: Essex

At Birkett Long LLP, head of team Tracey Dickens in Colchester handles franchise, MBO and partnership matters, while David Wisbey is the expert for banking and cross-border work. Other focus points for the ‘personable, responsive and reliable’ practice are commercial and corporate finance, e-commerce, education and the media and entertainment industry, of which the latter two are handled by associate solicitor Stephen Avila in Basildon. Wisbey advised the shareholders of local company C A Blackwell Group regarding the sale of its entire share capital to Hargreaves Services and also supported Runwood Homes during its acquisition of three care homes in Northern Ireland. The team has longstanding client relationships with Systematic Logistics International and Wilkin & Sons, and picked up 90 new clients in 2016, including Horizon Construction, Eastern Data Group and Hawkes Brewing Company.

Commercial litigation: Essex

While the majority of Birkett Long LLP’s commercial litigation clients are small and medium-sized enterprises, the ‘reliable and responsive’ department also advises larger companies as well as private individuals in regard to contractual disagreements, negligence claims and company disputes. Head of team Peter Allen, noted for his ‘keen interest in getting a favourable result’, is based in Chelmsford and specialises in the construction industry, while the ‘calm and collected’ Keith Songhurst mainly handles matters concerning property. Kevin Sullivan in Colchester supports clients during commercial disputes with an insolvency aspect. Allen advised long-term client Valeo on recovering two prototypes that went missing while in transit with shipping company TNT and also represented a property management company in a claim against a consultant concerning its public procurement application worth £5.9m. Songhurst’s highlights included the defence of the buyer in a contract dispute regarding breach of warranty claims arising out of an asset purchase agreement.

Insolvency and corporate recovery

Birkett Long LLP’s insolvency and corporate recovery team gives ‘extremely prompt responses and very practical commercial advice’, mainly acting for insolvency practitioners and defending company directors during contentious recovery matters. Key lawyer Kevin Sullivan in Colchester is ‘very straightforward and realistic’ and clients also recommend associate Tracy England’s ‘superb client care skills’. Chairman David Wisbey supports Sullivan with commercial and corporate finance expertise in non-contentious cases out of the Chelmsford office. Sullivan was instructed to investigate the recovery of net sale proceeds (due after a property sale) by a liquidator in a case against the director who had sold the asset but transferred the monies to a private bank account in Egypt. He also currently assists a client - whose tax payments were in great disarray due to personal problems - in the annulment of his bankruptcy order by aiming to reach an agreement with the creditors. Larking Gowen, McTear, Williams & Wood and FRP Advisory are among the firm’s longstanding clients.

Employment: Essex

Birkett Long LLP’s employment practice has special expertise in advising senior employees on settlement agreements as well as entitlement to bonuses, share options and directorships, with an emphasis on tribunal proceedings. The team has a growing reputation in the education sector, where it represents schools and other institutions. Martin Hopkins in Basildon and Tim Ogle in Chelmsford are the key partners, with Hopkins defending a former employee of Pinnacle Housing against unfair dismissal and discrimination. They are supported by associate solicitor Reggie Lloyd, who also leads on discrimination cases. Hopkins is the main adviser for long-term client e2v Technologies. Other clients include Hills Prospect, TLC Inns and Trade Gateway.

Clinical negligence: claimant

Chelmsford-based senior associate Nadina Edmondson is currently the sole fee-earner within Birkett Long LLP’s clinical negligence practice. She engages in claims against local hospitals as well as GPs, dentists and care homes regarding oncology, dental treatments, ambulance services, cosmetic surgery, gynaecology, obstetrics and fatal cases. The head of the private client department, Claire Read acts as a deputy for children or mentally disabled clients.

Personal injury: claimant

Birkett Long LLP’s personal injury department comprises associates Nadina Edmondson and Tracy England, who mainly handle road traffic accident, employers’ and public liability, occupational disease and fatal accident claims. Further expertise exists in brain and spinal injuries, as well as psychological and psychiatric cases. Edmondson, who ‘provides an excellent service, keeps her clients informed and explains legal procedures’, represented a cyclist who sustained a fracture of the tibia on the left-hand side and of the shoulder on the right-hand side during a collision with a car in a claim worth £115,000 against RBS Insurance. The team is supported by other departments for Court of Protection deputyship and financial advice. The ‘faultless’ England is recommended for her ‘patience, helpfulness and responsiveness’; she possesses ‘perfect business acumen and outstanding legal knowledge as well as sensitivity’ in relation to life-changing cases.

Agriculture and estates

Birkett Long LLP’s ‘competent’ team ‘undertakes all work in a timely manner and with great attention to detail’, and ‘offers sound knowledge which is clearly explained to the client’. Key areas of expertise include succession and tax planning, trust and estate administration, property transactions, diversification and land ownership disputes. The firm also regularly acts for farms and landowners, advising on the full spectrum of matters across the South East. Practice head Caroline Dowding is ‘very approachable, knowledgeable and capable of explaining complex concepts in layman terms’; Bruce Ballard is ‘excellent on the trusts, wills and planning side’, and Mark Wrinch is ‘diligent, well prepared and a very competent litigator’.

Family: Essex

Clients consider the family law practice at Birkett Long LLP to be ‘first class in all aspects of legal advice and direction’, delivering ‘faultless communication and professionalism’. Under the leadership of the ‘honest, compassionate and knowledgeable’ family and collaborative lawyer Philip Hoddell in Colchester, it focuses mainly on financial remedy issues resulting from divorce and separation as well as related private child law aspects. Cohabitee disputes and cross-border matters also form part of the team’s expertise. Hoddell, who ‘combines knowledge with caring’, is supported by the ‘brilliant, responsive and accurate’ team head of the South Essex offices (Basildon and Chelmsford), associate Lisa Collins, whose specialism lies in children matters. This niche area also benefits from Samantha Ellis’s experience in cross-jurisdictional private child law. Liz Jones moved into the firm’s wills, trusts and probate department, while Ella Johnson joined Pinney Talfourd LLP and Louise Buttery joined Birketts LLP in Chelmsford. The team welcomed Colchester-based associate Melanie Loxley back after a 20-month career break in September 2016 and the Basildon office hired solicitor Muntech Kaur from Duncan Lewis Solicitors one month later. 

Personal tax, trusts and probate: Essex

The wills, trust and probate practice at Birkett Long LLP is based in Colchester and Chelmsford and ‘demonstrates a wholly professional yet highly personal approach to any work entrusted to the team’, making it always ‘attentive to the client’s needs’. Claire Read’s ‘positive "can-do" attitude’ assists her in her mitigation, trust creation and administration work, which sometimes contains international aspects. Bruce Ballard and Caroline Dowding in Colchester have a specialisation in the agricultural and farming sector, where they advise families on their wills, succession planning and tax mitigation. Liz Jones, who joined internally from the family department, undertakes long-term care planning, especially for elderly clients, and also liaises with local social service authorities, hospitals and charities in order to make retrospective claims against the NHS. Associate Ben Parmenter heads the team in Colchester and deals with high-value tax and estate planning as well as will execution.

Education

Birkett Long LLP’s client roster comprises a mix of nurseries, colleges, schools and universities, for which it handles the full range of property and governance issues. Recent work includes acting for the Colchester Institute on the £1.2m sale of part of its estate to Braintree Council to use as a health centre, and advising Perryfields Junior School on its conversion to Perryfields Enterprise Academy Trust. Key figures include Martin Hopkins, who advises on employment and HR issues, and Melanie Bache, who handles commercial and real estate work. Amanda Timcke moved to Birketts LLP. 

Health

Birkett Long LLP’s ‘highly responsive’ team has ‘a strong knowledge of the sector’ and advises GP practices, care homes and domiciliary care operators on the full range of M&A, regulatory and property-related work. The firm recently advised Avondale Care Home on a high-value asset sale, and assisted a GP practice with corporate ownership, allotment of shares, declarations of trust and various other matters tied to its incorporation as a limited company. Key figures include the ‘knowledgeable’ Tracey Dickens, who advises care homes and medical partnerships on corporate finance matters, and David Wisbey, who handles M&A transactions. Other notable clients include Healthcare Homes Group, St Lawrence Medical Practice and Ambrose Avenue Partnership. 

Commercial property: Essex

Birkett Long LLP’s commercial property team in Colchester, Chelmsford and Basildon provides ‘good, straightforward advice’ in development, construction, investment and secured lending, with a particular focus on the education, healthcare and environmental industries. The latter is a focus of David Rayner. Clients include authorities and public institutions as well as private companies, partnerships, charities and individuals, with examples including Braintree District Council, Healthcare Homes, Svenska Handelsbanken, University of Essex, and Wilkin & Sons. Head of commercial real estate Melanie Bache acts on leases, landlord and tenant matters and transactions, and is profoundly experienced in representing healthcare businesses and charities as well as handling stamp duty land tax transactions, while Justin Stock handles property developments, commercial transactions and secured lending. The ‘approachable and quick-to-respond’ associate Emma Wraight, who represented Colchester Institute during the partial sale of its college estate to Braintree Council, is recommended.

Construction

Birkett Long LLP’s ‘excellent’ team has ‘a huge knowledge of processes and procedures’, and is ‘always able to provide efficient contributions to problems’. The group advises on standard form contracts, development agreements and bonds and guarantees, while its contentious strength extends to handling adjudications, mediation and arbitration along with litigation at the Technology and Construction Court. The practice recently advised Langham Facilities on several contracts and sub-contracts for the development of Sky Gardens in London, and acted for Stonechart Property on various purchase agreements. Peter Allen heads the construction team, which includes Keith Songhurst, who focuses on contentious issues, and David Rayner, who advises on development land and environmental matters.

Environment

Clients of Birkett Long LLP cite its ‘great overall level of service’, with ‘typically good response times and a solid knowledge of the environment within which the client works’. The firm’s wide-ranging experience covers contamination, water pollution, permitting and nuisance and waste issues, and has also received strong mandates in areas of sustainability, renewable energy and climate change. Highlights included advising Vaizey and Waterer Trustees on a promotion agreement entered into with a developer, and acting for a solar farm operator taking agreements for lease from landowners, then subsequently selling the investment interest in the company. Key figures include practice head David Rayner, who handles property, corporate and banking matters, and transactional lawyer Tracey Dickens, whose ‘highly professional approach enables transactions to be completed within a reasonable timescale’.

Contentious trust and probate

Birkett Long LLP’s ‘thriving practice’ has ‘a strong expertise in contentious trusts and probate’ and ‘builds good relationships with clients’. Key figure Amanda Smallcombe has ‘a combination of technical ability and sensitivity’ and ‘is particularly excellent with vulnerable clients’, her areas of expertise include contested probate, Court of Protection work and inheritance disputes. Adrian Livesley is the other name to note, advising on all aspects of property, tax, trusts and wills disputes.

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