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  1. Corporate and commercial: Norwich
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Who Represents Who

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Birketts LLP is ‘a high-performing and respected law firm’ that provides ‘first-class service; the very professional, solid team is quick to assist and thorough in its advice’. The team is led by Adrian Possener, who is singled out as a ‘very clear thinker’, and includes partner Greg Allan, who is viewed as ‘pragmatic and skilful in dealing with the complexities of any issue’. Also recommended are senior associate Paul Palik, who is ‘very supportive and goes the extra mile for clients’, and solicitor Nikki Reid, who is ‘a real asset to the firm – excellent to work with, efficient and knowledgeable’. Clients also pick out legal directors Ed Savory for his franchising expertise and Erika Clarke for her knowledge of the public and not-for-profit sectors. The firm recruited associate Vicki Mitman, formerly of Leathes Prior and currently affiliate forum chair of the British Franchise Association, augmenting its strength in brand protection and franchising. Highlights included advising Palletforce on its strategic acquisition of QTR Transport Ltd, and assisting international oil engineering group Derrick Services with a disposal involving complex cross-border matters. The firm also acted for Woodforde’s Brewery on its sale, and advised an educational institution on its proposed merger.

At Mills & Reeve LLPthe overall service is of excellent quality and the advice is first rate, practical and easily understandable’. The team is led by Craig Hodgson, who also heads the food and agribusiness department and who represents some of the UK’s leading food and beverage companies, and Greg Gibson, who leads the cross-office commercial, IP and IT department. The ‘always responsive and practicalJames Hunter is a leading transactional lawyer who acts for the owners and acquirers of many private businesses and has extensive experience in the financial services sector. Clients also pick out Natalie Wade, who has in-depth knowledge of the health sector and who regularly acts in large corporate consolidations and acquisitions of dental practices, as well as health and IT procurement counsel Sean Earnshaw, who ‘delivers excellent work and balances commercial and legal concerns’. In a highlight for 2016, the firm advised Boilerjuice on its sale to private equity firm Livingbridge. The team also advised Boparan Restaurants Holdings on numerous matters including its acquisition of Indian Restaurants Limited and the purchase of the entire share capital of Giraffe Concepts from Tesco. BUPA and Lotus Cars are also clients. Nick Fischl retired from the partnership.

Clients praise the ‘enthusiasm and support’ of the team at Ashtons Legal, which acts for a range of prominent clients such as Stowlangtoft Healthcare Group, Marriott Sinclair and Cosworth Group. It also has a specialist franchising team led by consultant John Chambers that is among the most prominent in the region. Other key figures in the Norwich office include corporate finance specialist James Tarling, who often advises on transactions involving innovative technology companies; Damian Humphrey, who is known for his M&A, lending and securities work; and associate Mark Watson, who stands out for his work on confidentiality agreements and due diligence in M&A transactions. Tarling and Watson advised an integrated engineering solutions provider listed on the Malaysian stock exchange on two due diligence exercises related to acquisitions in the UK. In another highlight Tarling acted for the sole shareholder on the sale of a national healthcare business.

Howes Percival LLP’s ‘first-class’ practice has ‘a number of experts in their fields’, including team head Robert Colman, who leads on tourism and leisure sector deals, and partner Nathan Horton, whose broad practice includes in-depth knowledge of M&A deals, private equity transactions and joint ventures, particularly in the health and education sectors. Associate Katherine Brown is also recommended. Highlights included advising a Swiss-headquartered company on a multimillion-pound investment in a Norfolk-based equipment manufacturer; and acting for a client in the real estate sector on its high-value acquisition of a service and repair company. The firm also counts Richardsons Leisure, Hughes Electrical and Ford Retail among its clients.

Leathes Prior is best known for advising on mid-market M&A transactions across a range of sectors not only in Norfolk, but throughout East Anglia and nationally. Team head Paul Warman and Peter Sheppard each have more than 25 years’ experience in corporate law and, along with Richard Guthrie, form one of the region’s most respected teams. Ed Savory joined Birketts LLP but the team took on two newly qualified solicitors in Richard Turner and Alex Saunders. The practice has a growing workload; in 2016 the team advised on 27 acquisitions and 10 disposals, including a number of acquisitions of veterinary practices for CVS (UK) Limited. The firm also acted for Budgens franchisees on numerous disposals, including the sale by Bens Limited of its Woodbridge store to East of England Co-operative Society. Another highlight saw Warman act for the management team of Subsea Protection Systems on the acquisition of the company’s entire issued share capital.

Steeles Law provides ‘an excellent service’ to large companies based in the Norfolk region as well as those with a nationwide presence, including longstanding client Jeyes Group. Head of department Richard Bailey and partner Nigel Lubbock are ‘true business advisers, not just lawyers, and punch above their weight’. Clients also recommend solicitor James Hopgood, who ‘talks through the options clearly and helps clients make rapid progress’. In a key highlight, the team advised Crown Chicken on its £40m sale to UK-based food producer Cranswick, which included a mixed portfolio of more than 70 properties and significant intellectual property assets. The team also acted for a UK company on its £5m sale to a US buyer, advised a major investor on the funding for a new technology investment company and its many spin-offs, and assisted a national client with bringing a new company into its group structure. Robinsons Motor Group and Animax Limited are among its clients.

Clients of Clapham & Collinge Solicitors value Jade Tinney for her ‘patient persistence and amazing ability to work all hours’. Tinney is part of Hugh Berridge’s team, which acts for a growing range of local business owners. Highlights included advising a shareholder of Babypoint Limited on the sale of the company to a European buyer; acting on the sale of outdoor equipment supplier Cley Spy Limited; and assisting with the sale of a property management business with a large portfolio of properties. Legal executive Jack Shreeve has a broad brief covering property matters alongside business sales and acquisitions.

Fosters has made a concerted effort to grow its corporate and commercial practice in line with its litigation capability. Adrian Newborough, who has more than 30 years’ experience and focuses largely on the local SME market, leads the team with Chris Fielding; they were joined by Jamie Arnall, who previously held roles as senior legal counsel at Thomas Cook and head of legal at Norwich City Football Club. The firm advises a number of SME clients, and recently acted on the sale of a driving academy franchise, the purchase of a shareholding in a substantial taxi business, the sale of a café business, and the purchase by a management team of a flooring business from its retiring owner.

Rogers and Norton is ‘an extremely professional and friendly firm’ that is ‘always quick to respond and extremely helpful’. Director Richard Etheridge (who is praised for his ‘common-sense approach’) has specialist expertise in the NHS field and regularly handles transactions for doctors and dental practices. Medical-sector highlights included amendments to several partnership agreements following retirements from medical and dental practices. The firm also advised on the management buyout of two founding shareholders of a trading company, the sale of a 50% stake in a financial services company, and acted for a regional recruitment company on its purchase of a competitor.

Spire Solicitors LLP has a strong client base in Norwich and acts for clients across East Anglia. In 2016 it advised on numerous transactions for management teams, including financings, MBOs and the negotiation of commercial contracts. Roger Margand (‘works tirelessly for his clients and always performs to a very high standard’) has more than 20 years’ experience advising private and not-for-profit organisations on a wide range of commercial and corporate projects. Alistair Ponder, formerly head of the commercial department at Gross & Co, joined in early 2017 and brought additional skills in M&A, supplier and procurement contracts, data protection, joint ventures and distribution agreements. Other highlights included advising international sports betting technology and software company Genius Sports Group on an investment into the company by Three Hills Capital Partners.

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