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Our South East chapter is broken down into the following sub-regions: Thames Valley, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, M4/M40; Kent, Surrey, Sussex; Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middlesex; Hampshire; and Essex. The geographical boundary extends to Hampshire in the south – with Winchester and Southampton acting as the key commercial hubs – up to Milton Keynes in the north, towards the Kent and Essex coastline in the east and then across to Newbury in West Berkshire. Coverage of the South East is either by region-wide practice areas or is narrowed down into the respective sub-regions.

Thames Valley law firms are seen as an attractive alternative to London-based practices, given the region’s proximity to the City. Reading is a technological hub which continues to benefit from the recent Crossrail project, and there has been a noticeable increase in commercial property developments taking place across the town. Gateley Plc entered the legal market by recruiting office head Christopher Avery along with Andrew Peddie, Nicola Kirk and Owen Reynolds from Pitmans LLP, and Olswang LLP rebranded to CMS in a global merger which saw the firms join forces with Nabarro LLP. Other notable firms in Reading include Shoosmiths LLP, Field Seymour Parkes LLP, Boyes Turner and Blandy & Blandy LLP, which recently opened a Henley-on-Thames office by acquiring Collins Dryland & Thorowgood LLP. Blake Morgan LLP and Penningtons Manches LLP straddle Oxford and Reading, and are among the region’s top players. Lewis Silkin LLP is singled out for employment work in Oxford, and in wider Oxfordshire, technology specialist White & Black Limited stands out along with commercial property expert BrookStreet des Roches.

Milton Keynes is the central hub in the Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx region. Dentons’ international practice is a key name in the city, and is well-regarded for its cross-border transactional capabilities. Other prominent firms include EMW Law LLP, which is noted for its work with owner-managed business clients; Shoosmiths LLP, which benefits from its nationwide network of offices and advises primarily on corporate and commercial matters; and B P Collins LLP, which remains a key name in dispute resolution, most notably in the waste management sector. St Albans is the main city in Hertfordshire and enjoys close links with the City of London; prominent firms in St Albans include SA Law LLP, Debenhams Ottaway and Sherrards Solicitors LLP, along with family law boutique Rayden Solicitors.

Guildford, Brighton, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells are the key hubs of the Kent, Surrey and Sussex market. Key names in the market are Charles Russell Speechlys LLP, Clyde & Co LLP and Stevens & Bolton LLP, with Cripps LLP, DMH Stallard LLP and Irwin Mitchell also prominent regional players. There is a strong private client presence in the area, with boutique firms for personal tax and family work increasing in number each year, while corporate, commercial, litigation and real estate work dominates the scene at the larger firms.

In Hampshire, the two key bases are Southampton and Basingstoke. Bond Dickinson LLP is known for commercial and litigation work, and all-rounders Blake Morgan LLP and private client experts Paris Smith LLP also have well-established client bases in the area. Moore Blatch LLP and Shoosmiths LLP are making significant headway in the region. Often with links to the South West as well as London, traditional shipping and maritime legal work for the area has given way to City-level corporate and commercial, litigation and property matters.

Essex firms are located primarily in Colchester and Chelmsford, though a significant number of firms have established offices across the county, some notable examples being Wortley Byers LLP in Brentwood, Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors in Loughton and Harlow and Paul Robinson Solicitors LLP in Benfleet, Billericay and Westcliff-on-Sea. Well-known firms Birketts LLP and Birkett Long LLP are particularly proud of their commercial property, corporate and private client departments. The recent hire of Beth Baird saw Birketts LLP add a strong employment lawyer to its team. Thompson Smith and Puxon is also noted as an up-and-comer in these areas. In other developments, Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP expanded its real estate team in the last year; Tees Law has made efforts to grow its work in the family and employment departments; and Palmers has strengthened the depth of its commercial offering. Other key players include Wortley Byers LLP, which has a strong track record in commercial property law; Pinney Talfourd LLP, which is especially recommended for employment and family matters; and up-and-comer Mullis & Peake LLP in Romford.

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