The Legal 500

East Midlands

United Kingdom > East Midlands > Overview > Regional review


Throughout 2012, the East Midlands market remained sluggish in terms of corporate and property transactions, with few firms reporting green shoots. For most, a difficult environment is the ‘new normal’, and firms are needing to be creative to stay ahead. It is not uncommon to see innovative public-sector partnerships and charities arrangements in the region, and in 2012, many firms sought new avenues in the education sector. Family and personal injury departments were hit by the coalition government’s cuts to legal aid, which came into force in April 2013; the changes seem bound to make life harder for firms that depend on high-volume, lower-value work.

One of the best firms in Nottingham’, Browne Jacobson LLP is chosen by clients ‘in preference to many of the national players’. It made a successful transition to new offices in 2012, and continues on an upward trajectory across a range of areas, particularly in education and health.

Freeth Cartwright LLP continues to grow nationally, following the 2012 merger with Henmans LLP to create Henmans Freeth LLP in Oxford. In addition to its core reputation in property and construction, the firm also has burgeoning strength in areas such as family and contentious trusts, and is noted for its ‘rounded advice’ across the range of disciplines.

Set apart by its national emphasis, Eversheds LLP delivers a ‘comprehensive and supportive service’. Its Nottingham office is particularly strong in major corporate and IP/IT matters.

Gateley operates across both Nottingham and Leicester, and has particular strength in corporate and IP. It is noted for its ‘quality of service, and provides a full service to clients in a cost-effective way’.

Geldards LLP has steady momentum in property, but is recognised for an ‘excellent overall level of service across the board’.

Shakespeares enhanced its profile in the region through its 2012 tie-up with longstanding Leicester firm Harvey Ingram LLP. Duncan James and Roy Botterill are significant figures in the Nottingham and Leicester markets respectively. The firm is also set to merge with specialist planning firm Marrons.

Shoosmiths LLP is ‘a good firm with a nationwide presence and strong reputation in the East Midlands’. It operates across both Nottingham and Northampton; the former office handles major corporate, property and employment work, while the latter is known for professional negligence and debt recovery.

Derby-based Flint Bishop LLP is well known for its contentious work, and has a strong licensing practice.

Howes Percival LLP is home to highly regarded family and IP departments, and is currently restructuring its private client practice along more corporate lines. It moved to new Leicester offices in 2013.

Nelsons Solicitors Limited’s bases in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester mean it is ‘a truly regional player, and as such can serve its respective markets on a local basis’. Clients also praise the firm’s partner-led service.

Spearing Waite LLP is ‘a superb young, dynamic practice, with top-quality lawyers’. It has a growing reputation in corporate and litigation, alongside its core strength in property.

Wilkin Chapman LLP has a wide-ranging practice, and recently branched out into construction and engineering.

Other firms of note include Actons, which recently hired IP specialist Scott Farnsworth from Howes Percival LLP, and grew at associate level in employment, commercial property and insolvency; Chattertons, which has strength in insolvency and litigation; ‘impressive one-stop shopFraser Brown; specialist private client and corporate firm Hewitsons; Lincoln-based Langleys Solicitors LLP, which is ‘a long-established local firm, with a first-class reputation for professionalism’; Rothera Dowson, which maintains its dominance of the transport sector; Smith Partnership, which houses an excellent family practice; Tollers LLP, which is a significant player in Northampton; and Weightmans LLP, which has increased in size and breadth thanks to its recent mergers with Mace & Jones and Vizards Wyeth.

The East Midlands is a diverse region. It combines business centres such as Nottingham and Leicester, where the lawyers handle sophisticated corporate work, with smaller towns such as Lincoln and Northampton, where firms are more often known for their agricultural clients. The larger firms are in many cases part of a wider national network, and some conduct big-ticket multi-jurisdictional deals out of the region.

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Legal Developments in the UK

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