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This chapter covers three key markets in the North: Newcastle, the dominant economic and commercial hub; Cumbria, with Carlisle as a focus; and the Tees Valley. Commercial property growth has fuelled growth in the Northern market over the past year, but law firms are facing a scarcity of junior-level practitioners due to the economy into which they graduated in 2007/2008. Corporate and commercial transactions have been picking up in the largely SME-based Northern market, thanks to greater availability of funding. Conversely, the insolvency market is quiet, with liquidations at their lowest levels for 12 months.

The use of arbitration is on the increase, thanks in part to court fee costs but predominantly due to the added value of anonymity that those exploring the arbitration route can benefit from.

Clinical negligence and personal injury teams are still readjusting their positions following the reduction in legal fees for whiplash claims and the introduction of more fixed fees. Flood victim insurance claims are set to rise in the region. The departure of a team of nine from DWF to join defendant side DAC Beachcroft LLP is a notable development in what has historically been a fairly stable market.

The key issue for pension lawyers is the introduction of flexible retirement options into the budget in 2015. Auto-enrolment, especially for larger companies, remains prevalent.

Private client practitioners are seeing a continued increase in contentious probates and more of a willingness to challenge wills than in recent years, inheritance tax planning is also more prevalent. Clients are becoming increasingly aware of the cost of trusts and care planning. Farming lawyers are seeing a good deal of diversification, partnership agreements are becoming more popular and farmers are applying for inheritance succession, creating trusts and maximising agricultural property relief. Family lawyers are seeing more litigants in person, and surrogacy and civil partnership are other key issues.

The major players in Newcastle are Bond Dickinson LLP, which has a strong national focus in keeping with its UK-wide footprint; Muckle LLP and Sintons LLP, both of which are stalwart players in the North and attract national clients to their respective offices in Newcastle; and Hay & Kilner, Ward Hadaway and Watson Burton LLP. Eversheds LLP is also present in Newcastle, and leverages its international network to handle cross-border mandates.

Key firms elsewhere in the North include Carlisle-based firms Baines Wilson LLP and Burnetts; and Archers Law LLP and Endeavour Partnership LLP in Stockton on Tees.

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