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  1. Corporate and commercial: Manchester
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Addleshaw Goddard LLP’s β€˜pragmatic and commercially focused’ department is headed by Michael Birchall, who led for Peel Group on the sale of a 50% investment in MediaCityUK to Legal & General. The β€˜experienced’ Roger Hart advised Norcros on the Β£21.9m acquisition of Croydex Group, and Paul Medlicott, who leads the private equity practice, advised Livingbridge on its investment into Sykes Cottages and Webcottages. In another private equity highlight newly promoted partner Andrew Green advised Inflexion Private Equity on the acquisition of the animal health and crop business of market research company GfK. Richard Lee, who recently relocated to the Manchester office, advised Clinigen Group on the acquisition of Idis Group Holdings. Paul Devitt and Richard Thomas left the firm to join EY.

The β€˜experienced’ team at DLA Piper UK LLP delivers β€˜consistently good and clear advice’ and β€˜understands client needs’. Corporate head James Kerrigan advised Conviviality on its Β£200m reverse takeover of drinks wholesaler Matthew Clark. Jonathan Watkins (who is rated for his β€˜practical approach’) acted alongside the β€˜excellent’ Elia Montorio to advise the shareholders of Fullwood Packo Group on its sale to the Verder Group, a Dutch manufacturing and distribution company. Yunus Maka advised Hoist Finance on its Β£117m acquisition of a diversified banking portfolio from Compello Group. Commercial team head Lee Brierley assisted new client JD Williams with the outsourcing of its creative services and technical infrastructure, while Stephen Wright acted alongside Montorio in advising The Co-operative Bank on the outsourcing of its mortgage administration services to Capita Group.

Eversheds LLP’s β€˜hardworking’ and β€˜efficient’ team is led by Simon Masters, who splits his time between the firm’s Manchester and Paris offices and advised Lookers on its Β£87.5m acquisition of the Benfield Motor Group. The β€˜brilliant’ Daniel Hall advised Euro Garages on its Β£1.3bn acquisition by Optima Bidco, and also advised Zeus Capital and Investec Bank on the Β£198m acquisition of Matthew Clark by Conviviality. Alistair Cree acted for API Group on a Β£46m hostile takeover bid from Steel Partners. The β€˜first-rate’ Tom Bridgford leads the commercial team. Alasdair Outhwaite joined DWF in February 2016.

Pinsent Masons LLP’s β€˜top-quality’ and β€˜proactive’ department delivers β€˜tremendous personal service with excellent response times’. The β€˜brilliant’ Gregg Davison heads the β€˜outstanding’ private equity team and led ECI Partners and its management team on the sale of the Fourth Hospitality Group to Insight Partners, and advised a number of individuals, including management, and Livingbridge on the sale of 80% of the share capital of Inov-8 to Descente. Manchester office head Helen Ridge and newly promoted partner Andrew Phillips β€˜epitomise professionalism in their field’. Ridge advised a prominent manufacturing group on a €405m disposal. Phillips led Palatine Private Equity on its investment in the WHP group. Senior associate Amie Norris is also recommended.

Brabners LLP’s β€˜knowledgeable’ and β€˜focused’ team advised Restore on its Β£55.7m purchase of Wincanton’s records management business, and advised Impellam Group on its Β£37.2m purchase of Global Group. It also advised the management team of Project Adler Bidco on the MBO of Vernacare, backed by Palatine Private Equity. Corporate team head David Bowcock has β€˜an excellent reputation’, and Tony Harper is β€˜excellent’. The β€˜experienced’ Andrew Millar is also recommended.

The β€˜fantastic’ team at DWF is singled out for its β€˜commercial awareness’. Highlights included advising Equiniti Financial Services on its acquisition of the business and assets of Selftrade from Talos Securities; advising RooGreen Ventures on the MBO of Wilmslow-based Total Fitness; and acting for Inspired Capital on Bentley Park UK’s Β£47m increased cash takeover offer. Key corporate figures include Frank Shephard, who heads the team and is β€˜very highly regarded’, the β€˜outstanding’ Jonathan Robinson and β€˜excellent’ director Lisa Stavropoulos. Craig Chaplin leads the commercial team. The department was bolstered by the arrival of Alasdair Outhwaite from Eversheds LLP in February 2016.

Highlights for Gateley Plc’s β€˜quality practice’ included advising Palatine Private Equity on the Β£37m sale of Electranet to Capita, and assisting Palatine Private Equity with the MBO of Vernacare. National department head Charles Glaskie is β€˜first class’ and is supported by Nigel Brown, who specialises in funding and public company work and leads on Asia-related instructions; Rebecca Grisewood and Paul Jefferson, who are recommended for private equity work; and Khurshid Valli, Mark Halliwell and Chris Dunn, who focus on acquisitions and disposals.

Squire Patton Boggs’ β€˜highly regarded’ team advised Bibby Line Group on GLI Finance’s investment into Verus360, a portfolio company owned by the client, and acted for Molson Coors Brewing Company on the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Rekorderlig UK. Other highlights included advising Innospec Active Chemicals on the sale of Innospec Widnes to Emerald Kalama Chemical. The β€˜outstanding’ Jane Haxby is EMEA chair of the firm’s global corporate practice, which includes Giles Chesher, who has β€˜an excellent reputation for private equity work’, and Darren Warburton, who is a β€˜brilliant operator’.

Hill Dickinson LLP’s β€˜hardworking’ and β€˜dedicated’ team advised Investec Bank and Cenkos Securities as joint brokers on Flowgroup’s Β£23m AIM placing and open offer, and acted for Cenkos Securities on Reneuron Group’s Β£68.4m placing on the London Stock Exchange. Other highlights included acting for pharmaceutical manufacturer Nupharm Group on its sale to Quantum. Ian Gillis and Ian Riggs head the β€˜strong’ corporate team, which includes Jonathan Gillow and David Mkhitarian. The β€˜efficient’ and β€˜technically able’ Mark Fitzgibbon leads the commercial department.

Kuit Steinart Levy LLP is rated for its β€˜superior technical ability and unwavering commitment’. Highlights included advising Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs on the redevelopment of a site at Jacksons Row, Manchester, as part of a joint venture with Rowsley and Beijing Construction and Engineering Group, and advising Progress Group on its sale to the Priory Group. Key figures include team head Robert Buckley, who is β€˜a commercially savvy and practical team player’; the β€˜excellent’ Kirsti Pinnell; Robert Levy, who stands out for his β€˜balance of technical ability and practicality’; and Martin Lewis. Peter Allen joined from DWF in September 2015.

Steven Grant leads the β€˜highly responsive’ department at Pannone Corporate LLP, which β€˜works seamlessly as a team’ and is β€˜always available and willing to work the hours to deliver against challenging instructions and schedules’. Highlights included acting for the lead investor in Parmenion Capital Partners on its sale to Aberdeen Asset Management, advising Conviviality Retail on the purchase of GT News Holdings, and acting for Enterprise Solutions on its acquisition of Aimteq Energy Management. On the corporate front, the β€˜very able’ Mark Winthorpe, β€˜charismatic’ Tom Hall and Richard Hepworth are all recommended. The β€˜experienced’ Amy Chandler and Udo Pope are singled out for commercial matters.

The β€˜very astute’ Kieran Toal and β€˜excellent’ Karen Procter lead the team at Shoosmiths LLP, which delivers β€˜exceptional service’. In an illustration of its strength in the retail and hospitality sectors, the team advised Truworths International on the Β£256m acquisition of the UK footwear retailer Office Retail Group, and advised Palatine Private Equity on the MBO of Alchemist Bar and Restaurant from Living Ventures. In another highlight it advised NorthEdge on the acquisition and management buyout of T. K. Components. Ursula Gould is β€˜excellent for commercial matters’.

Stuart Campbell leads the β€˜growing’ team at TLT, which was bolstered by the arrival of Ian Roberts, Andrew Needham and Pauline Cowie from Millbank Edge LLP in September 2015, and Susan Honeyands from Knights Professional Services Limited in October 2015. Highlights included advising Ecotricity on its Β£18.5m mini-bond issuance, and assisting the founder and shareholders of Sandown Holdings with NVM’s investment into a new holding company to acquire the shares in Sandown. Standout figures include the β€˜outstanding’ Stephen Devlin, Jon Close, and David Gardner, who is recommended for IT-related instructions.

Turner Parkinson LLP’s β€˜proactive, professional’ and β€˜consistently reliable’ team advised the shareholders of paper-based packaging group Logson on the sale of a 60% stake to W&R Barnett. It also advised Inspirepac Holdings on its Β£43.5m sale to Smurfit Kappa. β€˜Outstanding’ team head James Sheridan, the β€˜fantastic’ Andrew Sturge and Stephen Hadlow are all recommended.

Clients of Weightmans LLP appreciate the firm’s combination of β€˜very fast response times’ and β€˜excellent business acumen’. It advised British Ceramic Research Limited on its buyout via court-approved scheme of arrangement, which involved a novel transaction structure to enable management and employees to acquire the company through a newco without requiring cash financing. It also advised the Well Pharmacy chain on the acquisition of Care4U Pharmacy and Ideal Healthcare. Key figures include national team head Paul Raftery, who is β€˜highly regarded’, the β€˜first-rate’ Sarah Walton, consultant Robert Turnbull, and Vincent King and Martin Vincent, who lead the β€˜excellent’ commercial team.

Paul Ellaby leads the team at DAC Beachcroft LLP following his recruitment from Ward Hadaway in September 2015. Highlights included advising the shareholders of Cloud Amber on its Β£5m sale to IDOX Group. Legal director Andrew Rankin is also recommended. Leila Porter left the firm in 2015.

Highlights for JMW Solicitors LLP’s β€˜thorough’ and β€˜responsive’ department included advising WHP (Holdings) on its Β£38m secondary buyout by Palatine Private Equity, and acting for HPR Holdings on the Β£20m sale of Rendel to Ingerop and the sale of its strategic management consultancy business to KPMG. Mike Blood heads the corporate team and Richard Parkinson heads the commercial team. The β€˜excellent’ Vicky Protano was promoted to partner in May 2016.

Headed by Chris Wilkinson, the team at Mills & Reeve LLP is able to β€˜maintain and grow excellent client relationships’. It advised Martin Forest and others on the disposal of a regional estate agency business to Connells, and advised The Manchester College Group on the purchase of Total People. Also recommended are the β€˜exceptional’ Chris Ross and principal associate Paul Knight, who leads on commercial, IP and IT matters.

The β€˜motivated, knowledgeable and very astute’ Howard Gill heads the team at Nabarro LLP, which is particularly active in the real estate and hospitality sectors. Highlights included advising Redefine International on its Β£490m acquisition of AEGON’s UK property fund.

Highlights for Ward Hadaway’s team included advising Antal International on its purchase of Smart Moves, and assisiting the management team of Trafford Rubber Products on its MBO. β€˜Good operators’ Sean FitzGerald and Paul Johnson are recommended.

gunnercooke LLP fields β€˜an array of talented individuals’, including Darryl Cooke, Nick Ducker, Samantha Ogden and Tim Hamilton. In an illustration of its growing market profile, the team advised new client NorthEdge Private Equity on the MBO of Total Fitness.

Key names at Laytons include David Sefton, Barney Leaf and John Gavan.

Nexus Solicitors Limited advised Peter Wright on the sale of the entire issued share capital of Blithe Computers to 6PM Holdings. Jamie Lloyd heads the team.

Slater Heelis LLP’s β€˜responsive team’ β€˜really gets to know the needs of the client’. Team head Katharine Mellor is recommended alongside the β€˜brilliant’ Simon Wallwork, Sunil Mohindra and associate Rhian Owen. Highlights included advising the shareholders of Paragon Telecoms Limited on its Β£3.5m sale to WHP. Nicky Collins joined from Browne Jacobson LLP in April 2016.

Blackburn-based Elaine Hurn leads the team at niche commercial law firm Taylors, which includes Stephen Jarman and Andrew Livesey. The firm has established a strong foothold among SMEs and owner-managed businesses, and regularly advises on its clients’ exit strategies.

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