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  1. Commercial litigation: Elsewhere in the North West
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Aaron & Partners LLP fields a ‘competent, friendly and assured’ team that is adept in disputes related to agency agreements, M&A transactions, distribution, sale of goods and supply of services contracts, shareholder and partnership issues, as well as professional negligence. It is also noted for its expertise in cross-border cases. The transport and warehousing sectors are a key focus for the department, which is headed by insolvency expert Nick Clarke and which includes David Harries, who has particular expertise in energy, engineering, construction and IT disputes; John Devoy, who is experienced in professional negligence cases; and David Potts has extensive expertise in shareholder disputes. Associate David Mann is also recommended.

Brabners LLP attracts praise for its ‘no-nonsense and direct approach’. The team’s wide-ranging expertise spans directors and shareholder disputes, partnership disputes, professional negligence, warranty claims, commercial fraud and insolvency cases, with particular expertise in recruitment industry disputes, as well as contentious probate cases. The ‘very experienced’ Stuart Irons leads the department.

FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

FS Legal

Known for high-profile and typically multi-million pound ‘big ticket’ litigation. With offices in Manchester, London and Birmingham, FS Legal boasts a nationally renowned team of litigators. Its long standing, loyal clients seek out the firm on word-of-mouth recommendation and reputation. The firm’s corporate, employment and commercial departments provide cross-practice support.

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DTM Legal LLP fields a ‘very able litigation team’ that ‘always tries to find a solution and a way forward, rather than just state the law’. Operating across its Chester and Liverpool offices, the team handles a range of contract, finance, property, IP and construction disputes. Highlights included defending Rotex Europe in a £26m claim brought against it by a Saudi Arabian firm. Scottish Power, Lloyds Pharmacy, AAH Pharmaceuticals and Pochin Construction are also clients. The ‘exceptionally talented’ Jim Morris leads the team, which includes Richard Thomas, who impresses with his ‘depth of knowledge, and his extremely commercial and pragmatic approach’; Anna Duffy, who is experienced in healthcare and education sector disputes; and the ‘highly regarded’ Duncan McAllister.

Gorvins Solicitorsprovides a first-class service’ and is ‘a real alternative to many of the bigger, regional, city-centre firms’. The team’s expertise covers company commercial and partnership disputes for companies, shareholders and partners; finance-related disputes; and insolvency, professional negligence, and property cases. Avonside Group, Bibby Leasing, Thorne Credit Union, ECF Asset Finance, Crystal Finance (Europe) and Oldham Credit Union are clients. Department head Mark Deverell is a ‘very approachable and pragmatic individual, who is able to burrow down to the key issues in the most complex of cases’. Also recommended are property litigation expert Guy Lightowler, who ‘leaves no stone unturned, and always strives to achieve the best result for clients’; Michael Morris, who is experienced in finance-related instructions; David Guest; and senior associate Danielle Clements, who handles contentious will and estate disputes, as well as property litigation. Jonathon Crook joined in early 2017 from Irwin Mitchell.

Jolliffe & Co LLP has an ‘outstanding team’ whose ‘overall level of service is extremely high; everyone acts with speed and accuracy, and the team has great knowledge of specialist areas’. It handles a range of heavyweight litigation for its strong local client base, with expertise covering high-value, complex contractual disputes, shareholder and partnership disputes, breach of warranty claims, and personal and corporate insolvency, among other areas. The firm also houses strong debt recovery expertise. Team head Andrew Bartley ‘consistently goes the extra mile to find innovative solutions to disputes, and is rarely stumped by an issue, regardless of its complexity’. Peter Anderson, the ‘clear-thinking’ Fiona Blakeborough (who is singled out for her ‘excellent litigation management’) and the ‘excellent’ Jo-Anna Martin are also singled out for praise.

According to clients, Myerson Solicitors LLP fields ‘one of the most user-friendly team of lawyers in the North West’. The team handles ‘complex commercial litigation with confidence and with an entrepreneurial spirit’ and is praised for its combination of ‘strength in litigation and approachability’. It is acting for CGL Group on three separate high-value banking litigation and professional negligence matters, and is acting for Sinclair Construction and its directors in a damages claim related to a residential development. Lima Orthopaedics, TATA Chemicals Europe, CI Dulux, Akzo Nobel and Starkey Laboratories are also clients. Adam Maher is a ‘first-class litigator’ who is praised for his ‘razor-sharp commercial judgement, tenacity and excellent communication skills’; he ‘quickly identifies the core issues’ and is ‘extremely robust under pressure. Also recommended are the ‘client-friendly’ Tim Norman, who is a ‘very clear and incisive thinker’; recently promoted partner Jonathan Hassall, who specialises in IP, finance and regulatory disputes and is ‘not fazed by any situation or challenge’; and Helen Thompson.

Napthens LLP’s ‘excellent’ team is particularly noted for its expertise in the rural industry, agriculture, leisure, energy, education and ecclesiastical sectors, and for its track record defending clients in regulatory prosecutions, as well as contested probate matters. Iain Wharton heads the team, which includes the ‘experienced and knowledgeable’ David Bailey, who is recommended for commercial property disputes and is ‘very quick to respond’; Robert Richards; and senior associate Andrew Holden.

FS Legal has ‘a deservedly good reputation for providing a top-quality, commercial service’. The team is well regarded for its expertise in high-value professional negligence cases and is increasingly advising on general commercial cases and construction-related proceedings. Morris Homes Group is a key client. Kit Sorrell is ‘a tenacious litigator’ and is ‘able to turn his hand to any kind of dispute’; he heads the team alongside ‘excellent litigatorJulia Norris and was recently joined by senior associate Mubarik Haider from Berg.

Forbes Solicitors is ‘always quick to respond’ and delivers ‘practical advice’ in a way that ‘is easy to understand’. Its expertise spans corporate, contractual, property and construction disputes, as well as professional negligence, debt recovery and contested probate cases. Highlights included advising Blackburn Cathedral Development Trust in a dispute regarding a multimillion-pound development at Blackburn Cathedral. Blackburn Rovers FC, Burnley FC, Trust Inns, Croud Inc. and Twin Valley Homes are also clients. Recently promoted partner Tom Smith heads the team and is applauded for his ‘good commercial knowledge’. The ‘very experienced’ Robin Stephens handles a range of construction, procurement and property-related disputes.

KBL Solicitors LLP’s commercial litigation department ‘punches above its weight’. The team, which is singled out for its ‘efficient’ and ‘focused’ approach, is particularly experienced in professional negligence claims against solicitors and accountants, and has continued to develop its specialist knowledge in relation to financial mis-selling of interest rate hedging products. It also handles general commercial, corporate, property and insolvency disputes. Michael Slater has a ‘contagious enthusiasm for work, is tactically good, and displays a good commercial understanding of the needs of the client’. Also recommended are consultant Nick Horsfall, who is recommended for property litigation, ‘first-rate’ consultant Gregory Gardner-Boyes, and associate Stephen McArdle, whose ‘excellent advice gets straight to the real nub of disputes’.

Specialist litigation firm Manleys Solicitors is ‘able to explain matters of law in a very simple way’. Its expertise spans contentious trusts, media, entertainment, healthcare, politics and sports-related matters. It is acting for Lovania Nurseries in a £1m employee fraud case, and is advising ex Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook in several matters involving the rights to the "New Order" trade mark, and to the band’s back catalogue. Team head Mark Manley is ‘able to turn his hand to most commercial disputes’ and ‘fights hard to get the right outcome for clients’. Manley is noted for his expertise across media, entertainment, sport, retail, finance and politics disputes. Leanne Wheeler is ‘very thorough and insightful’ and is particularly noted for her healthcare sector experience. Associate Katie Mickleburgh is also recommended.

The ‘well-managed and professional’ team at Slater Heelis LLP has ‘the interests of the client at the heart of its ethos’ and has ‘great awareness of practical and tactical considerations’. It acts predominantly for owner-managed businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs on a range of matters, from debt recovery through to high-value contract claims, partnership and shareholder disputes, professional negligence, construction cases, IP disputes, and contentious wills and probate matters. Highlights included acting for Hofler Global in a cross-border dispute relating to the sale of goods to a UK company, and defending Advanced VOIP Solutions in an enforcement notice relating to alleged automated marketing calls. Greenhalgh’s Craft Bakery, Angela Mortimer, Euro Car Parts and State Bank of India are also clients. The ‘excellent’ Helen Brown heads the ‘user-friendly’ team, which includes ‘first-class’managing partner Chris Bishop and associate Pritham Raj, whose ‘knowledge of the law and procedure regularly enables his clients to gain a tactical advantage over the opponent’.

Based across its Preston and Blackburn offices, Farleys Solicitors LLP delivers a ‘personal service’ and regularly handles breach of contract claims, IP disputes, and commercial landlord and tenant matters, as well as professional negligence and shareholder disputes. Department head Kieran O’Connor is recommended for high-value contract disputes and also acts in cases involving disputed wills and inheritance.

Based across its Birkenhead and Chester offices, the team at Hillyer McKeown LLP acts for a range of SME clients and high-net-worth individuals. John Lambe heads the team, which includes Paul Marsh, who is recommended for insolvency-related matters and Michelle Mayoh.

Niche firm Mason Hayes Solicitors is noted for its specialist expertise in the TMT sector, where Marcus Hayes heads the dispute resolution department.

SAS Daniels LLP attracts praise for its ‘excellent response times’ and ‘sound and direct’ advice. It is experienced in general commercial disputes, as well as property, fraud, negligence, construction and probate-related litigation. Gladman Homes, Three Mobile, Qualtex (UK), and F J Gibson are clients. Team head Christopher MacCafferty is recommended for property, construction, partnership and shareholder disputes. Also recommended are Paul Formby, who heads the insolvency and corporate recovery team, and Roger Allsup, who is noted for construction-related disputes. The team has recently been bolstered by several hires at associate level. Richard Smith recently retired.

Niche transport firm Backhouse Jonespunches above its weight’. Its client base ranges from small businesses to multinational plcs in the haulage and passenger carrying sectors. It regularly disputes arising from the sale and carriage of goods, and breach of warranty claims. Team head Steven Meyerhoff is noted for his ‘excellent technical and team management skills’.

Baines Wilson LLP’s ‘highly recommended’ commercial litigation team acts for a range of national corporates as well as local businesses and individuals, and is experienced in professional services, manufacturing and construction-related disputes. The ‘experienced’ Elizabeth Black heads the team, which includes Katherine Sibley, who specialises in construction and engineering sector disputes.

Butcher & Barlow LLP’s ‘meticulous’ and ‘highly commercial’ team is ‘always well prepared and demonstrates an intricate knowledge of the law’. Highlights included acting for Clearway Drainage Systems in a £1m insurance dispute. Alex Sandland (who is ‘bright, resourceful’ and ‘always ready to fight the client’s corner’) and Anthony Higham head the team.

The team of ‘skilled practitioners’ at Slater and Gordon has ‘good experience across the board’ and is focused on advising individuals, SMEs and owner-managed businesses in a range of commercial litigation, including contract disputes, professional negligence, partnership disputes, misrepresentation claims, insolvency and tax disputes. The team also advises on contentious probate and property litigation. The ‘very experienced’ Andrew Bogle heads the team.

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