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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame Icon The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. In the United Kingdon, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for eight years. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.
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United Kingdom > North West > Private client > Contentious trusts and probate > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

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Index of tables

  1. Contentious trusts and probate
  2. Leading individuals: Hall of Fame
  3. Leading individuals
  4. Next Generation Partners
  5. Rising stars

Leading individuals: Hall of Fame

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Leading individuals

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Next Generation Partners

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Rising stars

  1. 1

DWF's team, which is split across the firm's Manchester and Liverpool bases, handles complex trust and probate disputes, often with a cross-border element or issues of jurisdiction or domicile. The firm's clients include trustee companies, private banks, charitable trusts and private individuals. The practice was strengthened in late 2018 by the arrival of director Christopher Noel, who joined from Addleshaw Goddard to lead the private capital team in Manchester. 'Clever, practical' senior associate Daniel Williams is well-regarded by clients.

Practice head(s):Christopher Noel; Christopher King; Daniel Williams

Testimonials

'The team have a very practical approach - they have a great deal of commercial expertise and very good client handling skills.'

'Daniel Williams is excellent - clever, practical, very good with difficult clients.'

'Daniel Williams is objective, assertive and efficient - he also shows compassion and empathy in dealing with sensitive matters.'

The team at Mills & Reeve LLP advises a roster of high-profile clients on disputes over the validity of wills, actions involving trustees and executors, breach of trust and Inheritance Act claims, handling high-profile Court of Appeal cases and significant trust disputes involving offshore individuals and institutions. Simon Pedley, who heads up the team across the national firm's northern offices, has a long-established reputation of acting for very high net worth individuals, charities, Oxbridge colleges and trust companies.

Practice head(s):Simon Pedley

Work highlights

  • Acting for the executors of the Summers estate in relation to an extremely complicated handwritten homemade will.
  • Acting for the recently appointed professional independent administrator of the estate of the late Mrs Cadogan, appointed by court order during litigation between the two former executors. The estate comprises London properties worth £13m.
  • Acted for an Oxbridge College in defending a potential claim by relatives of the deceased; challenging the fees of one of the estate’s professional executors, as well as handling other related administration issues.

The 'impressive and extremely helpful' team at Myerson Solicitors LLP has an exclusive focus on contentious trust and probate work, handling high-value, complex cases. The practice has seen turnover grow by a third over the last year, with headcount in the team now up to six. 'First-class litigator' Helen Thompson leads the team, which also stands out for its use of bespoke case funding arrangements such as deferred fees, fixed fees and conditional fee agreements.

Practice head(s):Helen Thompson; Adam Maher

Testimonials

'The contentious trust and probate department is the equal of the larger Manchester firms. It is well resourced and in Helen Thompson has an able and experienced lead partner.'

'Myerson has a significant breadth of experience and willingness to both advise and assist clients for the best possible outcome.'

'The team has an uncompromised dedication to delivering exceptional customer service, which is second to none in my experience across the North West if not the UK. Clients are treated as individuals and very much made to feel part of the team.'

'The legal team have the rare ability of combining strong legal knowledge, procedural and strategic acumen but delivered with client care and overwhelming compassion in what are often difficult or testing circumstances.'

'The firm has particular expertise and experience in dealing with Inheritance Act claims, as well as niches in spousal claims and claims involving complex and financially and personally challenging disabilities.

'Experienced, approachable and capable. This is a team that offers a varied skillset which it applies appropriately to individual cases.'

'The team is committed to getting excellent results for clients. They work closely and are supportive creating a very productive and happy working environment.'

'The firm's team combines excellent technical knowledge with a strong work ethic.'

'This firm is very responsive and communicates very effectively in a timely manner.'

'Myersons put the client at the heart of the case and work tirelessly to achieve the right outcome.'

'Quick to respond and efficient in dealing with enquiries.'

'A great firm and great lawyers.'

'Clear understandable advice from approachable solicitors.'

Eleanor Clarke was exceptional in every aspect of dealing with my case - she made me feel at ease throughout my case.

'Helen Thompson is knowledgeable and experienced. She relates well to her clients and is a first rate negotiator with a good understanding of her clients needs and the insight to be able to see solutions where others would not.'

'Helen Thompson has a practical attitude and energises the clients for each round of dispute resolution, and gives them the ability to pursue a positive conclusion to their issues.'

'Helen Thompson is a first-class litigator. She works tirelessly; consistently demonstrating her dedication to achieving the best possible outcome for her clients by going the extra mile. She puts clients immediately at ease and is an excellent communicator. Her strong understanding of the law enables her to identify with surgical precision the issues in any given case from the outset. She has seen it all and is not phased by difficult or obstructive opponents.'   

'Eleanor Clarke's confidence combined with practical focus ensures that her clients are always in a very safe pair of hands.'

'Stephanie Ewan is wise beyond her years - no doubt an up-and-coming star of trust and probate litigation. She has a strong intellect, eye for detail and passion for client care. Her calm demeanour hides the fierce litigator inside, who is always determined to achieve the best possible outcome for often disadvantaged or vulnerable clients.'

'Adam Maher, the leader of the commercial litigation team is quietly spoken but has an iron determination to promote his client's interests.'

'Helen Thompson is approachable and charming, but has an excellent mind and a proven determination to get to the bottom of complex cases.'

'Stephanie Ewan has an exceptional eye for detail.'

'Helen Thompson goes above and beyond for clients - a very skilful litigator. She offers clients a first class service - she is tough and will fight the client's corner to achieve a good result.'

'Helen Thompson is particularly impressive.'

'Helen Thompson is approachable, sympathetic and knowledgable. Her no-nonsense approach is very reassuring.'

'Helen Thompson is professional, pragmatic and sensible.'

'Helen Thompson is cool and calm under pressure. She knows her stuff.'

'Helen Thompson has the ideal mix of approachability, compassion and empathy together with a sound understanding of the matter at hand and the ability to objectively advise.'

Key Clients

St Ann’s Hospice

Work highlights

  • Advised on a claim by a surviving spouse against the estate of his late wife under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

The team at Pannone Corporate LLP advise on mid and high net worth estate and trust disputes, representing national and international clients as well as those in the North West. The key members of the team include Nicola Marchant, whose 'energy and application inspires confidence in clients', and Jonny Scholes, who was recently promoted to to the role director. Director Jane Shaw's non-contentious tax expertise adds another string to the practice's bow.

Practice head(s):Nicola Marchant

Testimonials

'A strong group of very able lawyers.'

'Extremely professional and immediately put me at ease.'

'Jane Shaw and Nicola Marchant are exceptional practitioners - together they have a depth of experience in dealing with high value, complex contentious trust and probate issues. It is the combination of their knowledge and personal qualities that distinguish the firm from its competitors in the Manchester market.'

'Very conscientious and helpful - nothing is too much trouble.'

'The team is accessible, friendly, firm when they need to be with a tactical ability that is first rate.'

'Very helpful and proactive.'

Nicola Marchant's energy and application inspires confidence in clients -  she is a very good communicator.'

'Jonny Scholes has good grasp of realities of cases and has a strong rapport with clients which means that he is able to get to the nub of the dispute.'

'David Brown is a very able lawyer; he is very attuned to the commercial objectives of his clients.'

'Jonny Scholes is exceptional. He helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life with patience, kindness, a professional attitude and knowledge I immediately knew I could trust and rely upon on.'

'Jane Shaw is very capable - she has a no-nonsense approach and an ability to deal with difficult people effectively. Her focus is on getting the right outcome for clients in the most efficient way possible and works tirelessly to achieve that.'

'Jonny Scholes, Elizabeth Walsh and David Carmichael were amazing, I cannot recommend them more highly for their work. Their knowledge and understanding is unbelievable.'

'Nicola Marchant is first class.  Her technical knowledge is excellent. She identifies the issues and addresses them swiftly and cost-effectively; she is responsive, decisive and pragmatic. Very personable and a pleasure to deal with.

'Nicola Marchant is very approachable, knowledgeable, good-humoured and deals with matters promptly.'

'Nicola Marchant has a great deal of experience in the sector, and is responsive and proactive and always willing to give a view on something prior to being instructed.'

'Johnny Scholes is very helpful, careful and offers sensible commercial advice.'

Addleshaw Goddard draws on the firm's full services capabilities to complement its practice, with professional negligence, partnership and civil fraud specialists regularly called on to collaborate with the contentious trusts team. The firm's national and international scope also enables it handle complex cross-border trust litigation. The team is led by the 'enthusiastic and dedicated' Yorke Eaton, whose practice includes advising trustees on their duties and liabilities in relation to their business assets.

Practice head(s):Yorke Eaton

Testimonials

'The team is very experienced in private client matters and has excellent technical expertise.'

'Yorke Eaton is very enthusiastic and dedicated to getting the best for his clients.'

Brabners LLP's contentious trusts and probate specialists work hand-in-hand with the firm's top-rated family and personal tax team, advising high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals on their UK and international assets. The practice regularly advises on disputes over wills, estate administration, inheritance claims and Court of Protection and Charities Act proceedings. Liverpool legal director Simon Morris, who is described as 'a real rising star', is responsible for the firm's wills and probate claims website, which serves as a free information resource on probate litigation.

Practice head(s):Paul Lunt; Jeff Lewis

Other key lawyers:Simon Morris

Testimonials

'The team at Brabners is top drawer. They are true specialists who really know their stuff. They are client and outcome focused.'

'The Brabners team is responsive and well prepared and also good at judging what the clients needs are.'

'Simon Morris is the go-to man in Liverpool. He is very easy to deal with and really looks after his clients. A real rising star.'

The team at Gorvins Solicitors combines wills, trusts and probate experts with lawyers from a pure disputes background, advising on cases involving fradulent wills, Inheritance Act claims and questions over mental capacity. Christine Thornley jointly heads up the contentious trusts and probate team with senior partner Mark Deverell. The team was boosted during 2018 by the arrival of senior associate Julie Burgess from Weightmans LLP.

Practice head(s):Christine Thornley; Mark Deverell

JMW Solicitors LLP's team, which operates as part of the commercial litigation practice, handles a range of contentious private client matters including Inheritance Act claims, disputes over wills, executors and trustees, and claims for breach of trust. Recent roles for the firm have included acting for the defendants in the long-running dispute over the Yorkley Court farm estate, which involved the eviction of eco-farming squatters. Senior associate David Bondt left to join BBS Law in late 2018.

Practice head(s):Marc Yaffe

Testimonials

'A capable contentious trust and probate department.'

'Alison Parry is a standout partner - she is thoughtful and incisive, with a good sense for what will drive litigation forward.'

Work highlights

  • Advising on an Inheritance Act claim for a client whose father died after a motorbike accident on a practice run while training for the Isle of Man TT race.
  • Acting for the defendants in the Yorkley Court farm estate trust dispute, which centres upon establishing who the beneficiaries of the estate are as well as challenging the conduct of the trustees who have been administering the trust.
  • Advising on a complex Inheritance Act claim and alleged trustee negligence action involving the interests of a minor.
  • Advising two children of the deceased, who died intestate, in a dispute over the administration of the estate.

The practice at Shoosmiths LLP is part of the wider firm's personal advisory arm, which accounts for one fifth of its total fee income. The team acts for corporate and charity clients as well as high net worth individuals, handling work such as trust disputes, validity disputes and Inheritance Act cases. The practice is led by Adam Draper - seen as 'one of the leading lights in contentious probate and trust work in the north west' - and also features 'up and coming star' solicitor Andrew Bishop. The practice aims to differentiate itself by offering flexible funding options such as conditional fees and payment on conclusion arrangements.

Practice head(s):Adam Draper

Other key lawyers:Andrew Bishop

Testimonials

'National coverage but with a local presence and expertise to back that up.'

'Friendly, supportive, helpful.'

'An excellent and committed team.'

'The Shoosmiths team enjoy a good reputation within this specialist area, combining a high level of legal knowledge with a practical approach.'

'Adam Draper has exceptional knowledge in the field, and is an astute and extremely good lawyer. He is very strong tactically, and strikes up an immediate rapport with clients.'

'Adam Draper is one of the leading lights in contentious probate and trust work in the north west. Excellent knowledge and a great solicitor to work with.'

'Andrew Bishop is a tremendously hardworking, knowledgeable up and coming star of this area.'

'Adam Draper and his team will put themselves out to help and are good listeners and very supportive and will help in any way, I can't praise them enough.'

'Andrew Bishop is one to watch - definitely a star of the future.'

'Adam Draper runs a strong team with an ability to turn work around in record time, and get right to the heart of complex matters.'

'Adam Draper is highly experienced in litigating private client matters. He shows great empathy for lay clients and is a tenacious fighter for the best possible results for them.'

Work highlights

  • Assisted a client in a spousal claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 against the estate of the deceased husband, a well-known and successful property developer in Wales.
  • Assisted the client in a spousal claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 against the estate of the deceased husband, the son of Lady Wilton, who was married to the 7th Earl of Wilton.

Aaron & Partners LLP's practice is led by wills, trusts and tax head Clive Pointon and James Wallace, who advises clients on both the litigious aspects of contentious trust and probate work as well as the taxation and estate planning consequences of judgments and settlements. The department, which also gives expert evidence on Court of Protection disputes, offers alternative funding arrangements for clients including conditional fees and damages-based agreements.

Practice head(s):Clive Pointon

Other key lawyers:James Wallace

Butcher & Barlow LLP offers the full spectrum of services to high-net-worth clients, covering all types of disputes in this area, advising executors, beneficiaries, trustees and others challenging the validity of wills. The team is headed up by Sandbach-based Samuel Dale, who handles both contentious and non-contentious work.

Practice head(s):Samuel Dale

Testimonials

'Very helpful and approachable.'

'High quality service with all the benefits of a high street practice.'

'A firm which combines the local touch with a strong team across its offices.'

'Butcher and Barlow has great strength in this area with a number of excellent practitioners in trusts and probate work. They bring together the expertise of a larger firm with the personal service of a family solicitor and take trouble to ensure that all client needs are met.'

'Strong partners, typically raised up through the ranks, with an impressive knowledge of clients' backgrounds and legal needs.'

'Samuel Dale is attentive to detail and not afraid run difficult arguments to successful conclusions.'

The practice at DTM Legal LLP is led by trained mediator Duncan McAllister, who has built up the firm's offering in this area since joining the firm in 2014. The firm's specialisms in this area include breach of trust claims, estates disputes and claims in relation to property, with much of its work coming from referrals from other solicitors in Chester, North Wales and the Wirral.

Practice head(s):Duncan McAllister

Testimonials

'Duncan McAllister is incredibly helpful and understanding.'

Forbes Solicitors has grown its presence in this area on the back of the hire of contentious trusts and probate head Ben Wilson in 2017. The team, which has now grown to three full-time members, acts for clients on a local, national and international basis, and offers alternative funding arrangements such as conditional fee agreements, deferred fees and fixed fees.

Practice head(s):Ben Wilson; Michael Chambers

Testimonials

'A strong regional firm - prepared to fight their client's corner while always giving realistic advice.'

Ben Wilson is a good negotiator.'

'Ben Wilson is very well-informed and pragmatic.'

Work highlights

  • Advised on high value and complex trustee dispute involving charitable assets valued at £10m.
  • Acted for adult child in claim being brought out of time under the Inheritance Act 1975 against estate worth £1.1m.
  • Acting for adult children, dependants and spouses in various separate claims against estates under the Inheritance Act 1975.
  • Acting for three trustees of a will trust worth around £500,000 on breach of trust.
  • Defending claim brought against a £450,000 estate under the Inheritance Act.

Gateley Plc's two practitioners in this area, Janine Allen and senior associate James Seed, handle work including Inheritance Act claims, professional negligence claims relating to estate planning and will validity disputes. Allen's practice is complemented by her broad experience in healthcare sector litigation, while Seed has a particular focus on high-value contentious trust and probate disputes.

Practice head(s):Janine Allen; James Seed

Chester boutique Jolliffe & Co LLP handles contentious probate matters including disputes over the validity of wills and Inheritance Act claims, with solicitor-advocate Andrew Bartley and 10-year qualified associate Clare Wainwright leading the bulk of the firm's work in this area.

Work highlights

  • Representing a claimant in contesting the validity of a codicil to his father’s will relating to land farmed by the family farming partnership.
  • Representing a disabled adult child in an Inheritance Act claim.
  • Advising the executors of an estate worth tens of millions of pounds on four Inheritance Act claims.
  • Instructed to challenge a will on the grounds of lack of capacity, due execution and/or want of knowledge and approval.
  • Advising on a claim for negligence against trustees and a financial adviser.

Kuit Steinart Levy LLP's sizeable team combines probate and litigation expertise, advising on all types of challenge to the validity of wills, including 1975 Act claims. The team’s client base - which increasingly includes national clients as well those in the firm's northwest heartlands - are predominantly owner-managed businesses and their owners, family businesses and very high-net-worth individuals. The practice is led by Andrew Weinberg, who has been a partner at the firm for around 25 years.

Practice head(s):Andrew Weinberg

Other key lawyers:Graham Wood

Testimonials

'The firm's understanding of the personal aspects of work makes them unique -  the empathy they show and the feeling  hat they are with you throughout is commendable.'

'The firm is very unique as the managing partners are very hands-on and stay close to the client.'

Lauren Clyne has always and continues to stand out - she understands the needs of the family from more than simply a lawyer's perspective. Lauren also understands how the individuals she has to work with at a client level operate - she knows instinctively when to chase politely, when to demand more aggressively and when to leave it for a more appropriate time.

'The team will always tell clients what they need to hear, which is not always the same as what they might want to hear.'

'Graham Wood is consistently our go-to person for sound, pragmatic advice.'

At Slater Heelis LLP, managing partner Chris Bishop advises high-net-worth individuals on complex and high-value trust and probate disputes, with the wider team acting for clients including executors and administrators. Former team head Helen Brown left to join Paris Smith LLP at the end of 2018.

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