The Legal 500

United Kingdom > North West > Regional review

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Manchester, which has strong transport links and attracts a flow of international business, is the corporate hub of the North West, and all of the regional heavyweights have offices there. Firms in Liverpool are also kept busy with high-calibre corporate transactions, and transport, commercial property and public sector instructions. Chester is particularly noteworthy for private client work, especially agricultural matters, as well as a range of instructions from over the border in North Wales. Commercial firms in other regional cities, such as Preston and Bolton, also attract work from SMEs and owner-managed businesses.

The concept of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ continues to gain traction, with Manchester in particular attracting several high-profile law firms to open offices. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP announced plans to launch an outpost in the city, focused on handling back-office work; it will be joining Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP and Latham & Watkins, with the idea of ‘northshoring’ work from London and benefiting from a lower cost base. Nabarro LLP made the largest impact in Manchester when it opened, poaching several high-profile names in real estate including Mark Haywood, Nathan Jansen and Monica Brij from Addleshaw Goddard LLP and Peter Winnard from Eversheds LLP, and corporate partner Howard Gill from Pinsent Masons LLP. The presence of the Big Four accountancy firms in Manchester has also lured some top talent, with corporate partners Nick Roome and Neal Shepherd joining KPMG and PwC from DLA Piper UK LLP and Addleshaw Goddard LLP respectively.

Elsewhere, Slater Heelis LLP merged with Mohindra Maini Solicitors and attracted corporate finance partner Simon Wallwork from Weightmans LLP, further boosting its city centre offering; and Garstangs Cartwright King LLP announced its merger with Midlands firm Cartwright King in 2015.

TLT’s Manchester office, which opened in 2013, continues to grow, with hires including banking and restructuring partner Martin March from Hill Dickinson LLP; consultant Richard Webb from DWF, on the litigation side; and corporate partner Stephen Devlin from DLA Piper UK LLP. Shoosmiths LLP made several hires, including new finance head Janet Dalton from DWF and Laura Harper, who joined from Ward Hadaway to lead the IP and creative industries team.

The Liverpool legal market remains stable, with firms continuing to benefit from the significant amount of regeneration in the city, and port projects such as Liverpool2 and the Mersey Gateway. MLP Law LLP opened a new office in Liverpool, adding to bases in Altrincham and MediaCityUK (Salford Quays).

Addleshaw Goddard LLP continues to dominate the Manchester legal market, despite high-profile departures in 2014 that particularly hit the real estate department. With a robust corporate and institutional client base, the firm maintains its strong reputation for finance, corporate and commercial property. John Joyce was elected managing partner in Manchester in May 2014, with his predecessor Paul Devitt rejoining the corporate team.

DLA Piper UK LLP’s offices in Liverpool and Manchester enjoy a reputation for local, national and international instructions, with strength across corporate, finance and projects, and benefit from the firm’s global footprint.

With a strong corporate client base, Eversheds LLP attracts regional, national and international work. Real estate, corporate and education matters are particular strengths for the firm in Manchester.

Pinsent Masons LLP’s Manchester office is noted for its regional, national and cross-border work, particularly in private equity, banking and finance, real estate and construction.

With offices in Liverpool, Manchester and Preston, Brabners LLP is notable for its leading sports practice, and also has strength in IP, private client, corporate, litigation and social housing.

Despite closing one of its Manchester bases in 2014 and making a number of redundancies, DAC Beachcroft LLP remains a key player for insurance and healthcare work.

With offices in Manchester, Liverpool and Preston, DWF takes a sector-focused approach, and has strength across IT and telecoms, personal injury, HR, private client and corporate and commercial. Helen Corner joined the banking team from Addleshaw Goddard LLP, and Abby Dry joined the real estate department from Hill Dickinson LLP.

Gateley Plc has a strong reputation for private equity, real estate, banking and corporate work, and its private client team was boosted by the arrival of Philip Laidlow from Laytons.

Hill Dickinson LLP in Manchester and Liverpool is recognised for its strength in the health, marine and trade sectors. Finance, corporate and real estate are key areas of focus.

Squire Patton Boggs handles a significant flow of national and international instructions, benefiting from the firm’s reach. Key hires included employment partner Paula Cole from DAC Beachcroft LLP.

Weightmans LLP, in Liverpool and Manchester, maintains a strong reputation for its insurance practice, and for its marine, public sector, retail and leisure work. Its corporate offering was boosted by the arrival of Haydn Rogan from DWF.

Despite the influx of strong local competition for personal injury and clinical negligence work, Irwin Mitchell continues to hold its own in the market, with recent hires including Deirdre Healy and Cathy Leech from Pannone (now part of Slater and Gordon). The firm is also noted for its real estate and family law practices.

Slater and Gordon remains in acquisition mode in the region, recently taking over Walker Smith Way Legal (to form Walker Smith Way Legal Part of Slater and Gordon). The firm has a significant clinical negligence and personal injury offering.

With the talk of ‘Devo Manc’ and the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, Manchester remains the corporate centre of the region, attracting business from the rest of the UK and internationally, and this is set to increase in the next few years as planned new transport links such as HS2 attract further investment. Firms in Liverpool enjoy a slew of high-profile corporate work, projects, property and public sector instructions. Beyond the major cities, firms profit from lower cost bases, and advise an increasing number of high-profile clients. A strong roster of high-net-worth clients turn to firms in Chester for advice on agricultural and private client matters, with firms in the city acting for a number of clients from North Wales as well as England. Firms in smaller towns and cities, such as Preston and Bolton, have strong local client bases, and act for a range of SMEs, public sector clients and owner-managed businesses.

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