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  1. Dispute resolution
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Brendan Fox heads the practice at A&L Goodbody, which stands out for its ‘excellent response times’ and for its wide-ranging expertise covering patent infringement, construction and real estate disputes. Fox, who attracts praise for his track record in property disputes, led the team representing Helm Housing Association in a property valuation dispute. The firm also fields a dedicated procurement litigation team headed by associate Micaela Diver; recent highlights include successfully defending Northern Ireland Housing Executive in a High Court claim brought by Allpay concerning a tender to provide processing services for tenants. Michael Neill has an excellent reputation in financial services litigation and has represented major banks in High Court litigation. Associate Barbara Creed joined from Tughans in October 2015.

Catriona Gibson heads the ‘extremely professional and highly skilled team’ at Arthur Cox Belfast, which has a track record spanning large-scale arbitrations, product liability disputes and professional liability, among other matters. It also has a strong reputation acting for major banks in sensitive and high-value financial disputes. Gibson led the team that successfully defended Aer Lingus against Belfast International Airport in a dispute arising from the client’s relocation from Belfast International Airport to Belfast City Airport.

Standout matters for Carson McDowell LLP’s disputes practice included representing Belfast International Airport in its dispute with Aer Lingus, and acting for building, civil engineering and facilities management contractor McLaughlin & Harvey in a procurement dispute which ultimately settled through mediation. The merger with insurance litigation boutique McCloskeys Solicitors and the resultant arrival of Hugh McGrattan has significantly strengthened the firm’s contentious capability, particularly in the professional liability area. Declan Magee and Roger McMillan head the team.

The team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin is headed by Patrick Fleming and attracts praise for its ‘innovative and pragmatic approach to disputes’. The practice has a particular focus on property disputes ranging from large-scale landlord and tenant matters to professional negligence claims against property developers. It also handles commercial and contractual disputes along with claims for defamation and financial services litigation. Clients include Forthouse Developments, Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Sainsbury’s Supermarkets. Jonathan Forrester has considerable experience in construction disputes. The team has expanded with the addition of four new solicitors: Peter Lockhart, who previously worked at the Office of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland; Maria McNally, who joined from a charitable organisation; and Rachel Gamble and Adam Leitch.

David Kirkpatrick heads Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP’s ‘very professional’ practice, which acts on a variety of major disputes ranging from property to professional negligence and environmental damage matters. Laura Gillespie recently acted for Queen’s University Belfast in a high-profile judicial review of the university’s decision to suspend a student for the period of his sexual offences prevention order; the team were successful in dismissing the appeal. Other clients include SSE Renewables.

Tughans has been particularly active in professional negligence cases, recently defending RPS Group against claims by a building contractor. The group also handles landlord and tenant matters, as well as commercial and contractual disputes. Managing partner Patrick Brown is well known for his procurement litigation expertise. Michael McCord heads the practice.

C & H Jefferson has a strong reputation for professional negligence cases – the firm is on the panel of the Law Society of Northern Ireland – in addition to handling contractual disputes, property litigation for developers and commercial agents, landlord and tenant disputes, and banking litigation. The group is currently acting for an individual in a Court of Appeal case concerning a property dispute. The firm is also active in judicial review cases, including planning applications, energy and public procurement. The highly reputable Gareth Jones is team leader.

Brian Deeny leads the team at Elliott Duffy Garrett, which regularly represents banking groups, insolvency practitioners and local companies in banking disputes and insolvency litigation, and has recently represented Bank of Scotland and Feniton Property Finance. Professional negligence claims against banks are another key part of the practice.

In addition to handling disputes for major insurance companies and employer’s liability claims on behalf of employers, Johnsons Solicitors has a particularly strong focus on media and defamation law. Clients include corporations such as Ryanair and celebrities including Louis Walsh, Nicholas Cage and Harrison Ford. Paul Tweed heads the practice, which includes David Craig and Kenny Chambers.

Kennedys’ Belfast office is unique in its pure litigation focus, which sees it act for a range of clients including major insurers, construction companies, public sector bodies and architects. Recent highlights include professional negligence and procurement disputes. Amanda Wylie heads the team and is noted for her ‘breadth of experience and commercial awareness’. Raymond Gilmore and Megan Boyd are also recommended.

Millar McCall Wylie LLP has acted in a number professional negligence claims concerning mis-selling of interest rates, as well as numerous landlord and tenant disputes. Clients include public bodies, county councils and property development companies. Other highlights included representing an individual in an appeal against a planning permission decision. Caroline Prunty (who is ‘an efficient and strong communicator’) heads the practice.

In a reflection of the broad coverage of Mills Selig’s disputes practice, 2015 saw it act on property boundaries disputes, landlord and tenant cases and dilapidations matters for property developers; a case concerning mis-selling of hedge products and financial agreements; and several procurement disputes. Paul Spring heads the practice, which includes the ‘efficient and intelligentEmma Hunt.

John McKee Solicitors acts for major banks and housing developers on a range of disputes. Managing partner Chris Ross represented a major bank in a property dispute. Leonard Edgar heads the practice.

Napier and Sons is noted for its track record in insolvency disputes; recent insolvency-related highlights include acting in a £1.1m family partnership dispute. Other highlights included defending BT in more than 100 noise-induced hearing loss cases and acting for several religious organisations in the investigation into historical sex abuse claims. Joseph Napier leads the practice.

TLT has a strong track record acting for major banks in the region and across the UK. Recent highlights include representing banks in professional negligence claims against solicitors, as well as defending lenders against claims of fraudulent activity. Katharine Kimber heads the practice.

Thompsons NI Solicitors represents individuals and unions in employment matters. Recent cases have involved maternity discrimination, equal pay and unfair dismissal. The practice recently acted for longstanding client UNISON in successfully obtaining a compensation package of more than £296,000 for unequal pay. John O’Neill, Paul Upson and George Kirkpatrick are the key names.

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Legal Developments in Northern Ireland for Dispute resolution

  • Finding the 
right words

    In the recent case of Newbury v Sun Microsystems [2013], the defendant argued that an offer to settle proceedings was ‘in principle' only and that a binding contract could not be formed until further terms had been agreed and a formal contract had been signed. It supported this argument by referring to a statement, in the offer letter, that the settlement was to be ‘recorded in a suitably worded agreement'. 

    - Macfarlanes

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