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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 > South East > Corporate and commercial > Corporate and commercial: Thames Valley, Berks, Oxon, M4/M40 > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

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Index of tables

  1. Corporate and commercial: Thames Valley, Berks, Oxon, M4/M40
  2. Hall of Fame
  3. Leading individuals
  4. Next generation lawyers

Hall of Fame

  1. 1

Next generation lawyers

  1. 1

Who Represents Who

Find out which law firms are representing which Corporate and commercial: Thames Valley, Berks, Oxon, M4/M40 clients in South East using The Legal 500's new comprehensive database of law firm/client relationships. Instantly search over 925,000 relationships, including over 83,000 Fortune 500, 46,000 FTSE350 and 13,000 DAX 30 relationships globally. Access is free for in-house lawyers, and by subscription for law firms. For more information, contact david.burgess@legal500.com.

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Blake Morgan LLP has a strong reputation for servicing technology transactions out of the firm’s Oxford and Reading offices, including spinouts, M&A and equity/debt fundraises. Simon Staples joined the team in April 2017, having previously headed the equity capital markets team at Ashfords LLP, and specialises in advising high-tech companies. Staples and Guy Constant acted for Medical Imaging Partnership in its acquisition of the MRI business of Nuada Medical Specialist Imaging, including the transaction’s ancillary equity fundraising issues, while Staples and Mark Hepworth handled Swanton Holdings (Jersey)’s £40m sale of Swanton Care & Community to an Apposite Capital SPV buyer. Alison Patten-Hall heads the firm’s commercial offering, working for public and private sector providers on a range of commercial projects, including IT and outsourcing projects. One recent highlight on this front saw Stephen Tainsh and legal director Elisabeth Bell advise Utilita Energy on a range of commercial projects relating to the provision of utility services to consumers. Significant new client instructions have been received from Nutriment, Label Express and Teathers Financial. Penny Rinta-Suksi splits her time between Reading and Oxford; associate Tim Coles and consultant Dionne Simpson are other key figures in the practice.

Boyes Turner's practice has a 'broad range of commercial law experience and business acumen', providing a 'solution-orientated approach with speedy resolutions', with 'great value for money'. Particular industry specialisms of importance for the team are technology, fintech, automotive and healthcare, with clients of note including Auto Trader, Panasonic, MortgageGym and Wayfair. 'Outstanding commercial attorney' Mark Blunden heads the team, while Robert Rice leads the corporate group. Highlights included Rice handling the acquisition of assets of PACE Financial Group for US-based client Flywire; Kate Eavis ('smart, practical, experienced and good at delivering work on time') advising Circor International on the acquisition of a target group in a project worth around $855m; and Rice assisting Spain-headquartered company Accelya with its £8m acquisition of Anari. Commercial lawyer Bill Gornall-King is 'able to bring complex business issues into a practical and straightforward and effective approach’ and assisted Accelya with numerous commercial transactions. Sarah Williamson is noted for her experience in the digital, publishing, communications and advertising sectors, acting as in-house counsel to Auto Trader and the Guardian. Associate Helen Dobson and commercial solicitor Amir Kousari joined the team from Osborne Clarke's Reading office and an in-house role respectively.

Osborne Clarke's team is known for its strength in digital business, small and mid-cap private equity and growth capital, while also possessing experience in energy, media, retail, and real estate and infrastructure, among other areas. Cross-border transactions expert Sara Valentine] heads the Thames Valley corporate practice and acted for the selling shareholders and management team on the sale of CRM and client accounting software provider Reapit to a new company backed by management and technology-focused business investment firm Accel-KKR. Valentine was supported on this deal by associate directors Caroline Drummond and Mike Freer, who are noted as rising stars. National head of corporate Greg Leyshon advised the management team and selling shareholders of the Leisure Pass Group on its £35m sale to Exponent Private Equity and Big Bus Tours, and private equity specialist Rob Wood advised all shareholders, including LDC and Octopus, on the sale of Clifford Thames Group to US trade buyer OEConnection. Other projects of note included India group co-head Jeff Chang handling Infosys’ £7.5m acquisition of Brilliant Basics and commercial lawyer Russell Bowyer advising Hyundai on the design and launch of its Click to Buy vehicle website.

The ‘excellent and commercial’ team at Penningtons Manches LLP is recommended as being ‘unfailingly prompt and thorough in their responses, giving clear and actionable advice’ and ‘good at understanding business context’. The team has a track record of advising growth companies, with strong relationships with Touchstone Innovations and Oxford University Innovation. The practice is also noted for its work on high-profile venture capital and spin-out transactions; recent highlights include Rob Hayes advising Veryan Holdings on its equity investment from a syndicate of institutional investors and debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank and David Tighe acting for equity crowd-funding platform Seedrs on its new funding round with a follow-on investment by Woodford Investment Management. Life sciences continues to be another area of specialism for the firm in the Thames Valley; technology and life sciences expert Will Axtell advised the management team of Timico on a £50m investment from Lyceum Capital and Chris Shelley advised the shareholders of Oxford Gene Technology on its acquisition by Sysmex Corporation. Other key figures in the team include James Went, Nicola McConville, Justin Starling] and Joanne Vengadesan.

The members of the 'open and approachable' team at Shoosmiths LLP ‘provide a great service, know the industry well and know what is important to their clients’. Sanjeev Sharma and Simon Edwards head the Thames Valley corporate and commercial teams, respectively. The corporate team is strong in the technology, healthcare and education sectors, while the commercial practice regularly handles considerations in the food and drink and retail sectors. Clients include large corporates, public companies and private equity houses, such as Pizza Hut Restaurants, the RAC, Business Growth Fund and NVM Private Equity. Highlights in 2017 included Edwards assisting Smiths News Trading with the preparation and complex negotiation of website design, hosting and maintenance contracts; Sean Wright handling LDC’s £16m investment into national hair salon Rush; and various corporate team members advising the founders of SecurEnvoy on the £20m sale and reverse takeover into Shearwater Group. Senior associate Nina Smith and solicitor Mike Patterson are noted for ‘working excellently as a team, balancing corporate and business viewpoints with alacrity’. Senior associate Kiran Dhesi  is also noted as a rising star. The team saw Emma Gibson and Rachel Turner depart.

The team at Field Seymour Parkes LLP is noted for its ‘excellent client service, knowledge and professionalism’ and ‘exceptional value’. The practice’s client base ranges from entrepreneurs to owner-managed businesses and multinationals; representative clients include Honda, Business Moves Group and Dominvs Group. The team is led by private equity specialist Penelope Garden, who recently led a team advising the shareholders on the sale of the entire share capital of Property Information Exchange (PIE) to a newco backed by MML Capital Partners and the simultaneous strategic acquisition of PSG Connect from Security Research Group. Firm managing partner Jeremy Parkes handles complex corporate transactions and advised Dominvs Commercial Properties on the disposal of seven Jersey companies with total consideration of around £100m. Senior partner Ian Wood-Smith advised longstanding client Finch on four acquisitions, including the acquisition of Miller Insurance Brokers. Chris Brightling departed to join Girlings' Ashford office.

The ‘extremely knowledgeable, helpful and responsive’ Freeths LLP team in Oxford has considerable experience in the healthcare, automotive and transport, TMT, food and drink, and hospitality and leisure sectors, among others. The department is headed by M&A transaction specialist Leon Arnold (‘clear, authoritative, confident and experienced’). Arnold and senior associate Malin Svanberg Larsson (‘excellent at making the process clear and understandable, incisive commercial acumen, able to summarise complex issues in layman’s terms’) recently assisted Coopland & Son with obtaining an £8.5m growth capital investment from Business Growth Fund. Arnold and Larsson were also assisted by commercial partner Rebecca Howlett, who recently joined from Harrison Clark Rickerbys, in co-ordinating the Würth Group’s acquisition of IQD Frequency Products group companies. Tom Walker, who was recently promoted to partner, advised the shareholders of Crystallon, the holding company of Oxford Cryosystems, on the sale of its entire issued share capital to Judges Scientific, further to Freeths’ longstanding relationship with Oxford Cryosystems. Key clients of the practice include Adestra, JCAM Investments and the Higher Education Policy Institute.

Sean Kelly heads the team at Pitmans LLP, which handles a range of transactions, principally in the private company M&A arena but with an increasing weight of expertise in private equity and cross-border transactions. Clients of the practice include Cantor Fitzgerald Europe, Westcoast Group and Bridges Fund Management. IPO and AIM listing expert Oliver Pilkington is recommended for his ‘outstanding service’ and for ‘explaining any issue and decisions to be made very clearly with a recommendation on the option to take’. Pilkington assisted finnCap as nomad and broker to K3 Capital Group in relation to the latter’s IPO and associated £17.8m fundraising, and advised Sipsmith on its partnership with Beam Suntory, from conception and initial fundraising right through to partnership. Stephanie Perry advised Key2 on its £9.5m sale to Horizon Care and Education Group. ‘Commercial, intellectual and driven’ managing partner John Hutchinson continues to be a significant figure in the practice, having previously headed the team. Philip Weaver routinely offers advice to high-tech companies on M&A, fundraising, shareholder issues and commercial agreements. Roger Gregory divides his time between Reading and London and is renowned for US and European mandates, concentrating on M&A, private equity and venture capital transactions.

White & Black Limited's department is ‘commercially minded, with strength in depth, and each team member is good to deal with’. The corporate and technology-focused boutique receives numerous cross-border instructions covering M&A, investments, company disposals and share capital reorganisations. Clients of note include software provider Solid Solutions, games developer Mediatonic Games and private equity houses Highland Capital and NVM Private Equity. Practice co-head John Allen] (‘knowledgeable and focused on what the business is trying to achieve’) led a team handling One Event Management’s acquisition of Absolute Taste from McLaren Technology Group. Allen and his fellow practice co-head Phil Riman also led a sizeable team advising Matchesfashion on its majority buy-out by Apax Funds and related matters. Commercial expert Stephen Silvester advised South Korea-listed company G-SMATT Global on issues such as its management incentive share option scheme and various subscription rounds, supported by ‘valued associate’ Alexander Smith. Newly promoted partner Rob Powell is head of the sports and leisure practice and is also recommended for private equity and venture capital work.

The 'brilliant team' at BrookStreet des Roches is noted for its broad base of work, with particular strength in the food, engineering, technology and healthcare sectors. Head of corporate Paddy Gregan routinely handles significant transactions affecting the food production sector, notably advising on PD Hook Group’s acquisition of Bernard Matthews turkey business following the insolvency of the latter. Gregan also acted for Nuffield College on the formation of a public-private corporate joint venture between Nuffield and Oxford City Council to develop a major £200m mixed-use scheme in Oxford’s West End. Hugh Tebay heads the commercial side of the practice and recently assisted Smeg UK with the drafting and negotiation of logistics and warehousing agreements. Gayle Curry joined from Blake Morgan LLP to head the practice's healthcare transactional offering.

Clarkslegal LLP routinely advises international companies on making investments in the UK. Ashan Arif heads the practice, as well as leading the technology and media sector groups. Arif and senior solicitor Esme Kilic advise disruptive technology start-ups and early-stage businesses on everything from initial corporate structuring to complex and high-value equity investments and commercial arrangements. The team’s client list includes Carillion, the University of Reading, Eden Motor Group and Insta Group. Senior consultant John Chapman is noted as being ‘very commercial, efficient and perceptive’, with wide-ranging experience encompassing M&A, private equity, banking and finance, and corporate reorganisations. Fellow senior consultant and commercial agreement specialist Kirstin Parker is also noted.

The 'excellent' Gateley Plc team in Reading is led by ‘experienced and knowledgeable’ corporate practice head Andrew Peddie and head of commerce, technology and media Paul De Vince. De Vince joined from Shoosmiths LLP, where he headed the commercial team; his expertise includes outsourcing, designing trade models, supply chain management and procurement matters. The team was also strengthened by the hire of senior associate Mailin Bala. The team’s work has increasingly focused on servicing the needs of private equity houses in the Thames Valley corridor; Peddie assisted Maven Capital Partners and NVM Private Equity and their respective related venture capital trusts on an investment in Contego Fraud Solutions. Senior associates Mark Metcalfe] and Sarah Souter also advised Connection Capital on the MBO of financial risk management advisory firm JCRA Group, with the assistance of Birmingham-based supervising partner Tom Durrant. The team also excels in the technology, food, defence and recruitment sectors, with CACI, Vittles Foods and Cohort featuring on the client roster.

Herrington Carmichael LLP meets ‘international legal business standards in the field of mergers and acquisitions’ and is recommended for ‘distilling down complicated contractual advice into clear, concise and insightful feedback with clear recommendations and options’. Corporate lawyer and practice head Yavan Brar and senior solicitor Alex Canham are recommended for ‘their reactive and comprehensive approach when confronted with complex, international corporate legal situations’, while commercial specialist Mark Chapman ‘has strong technical knowledge and deals expeditiously with requests’ and ‘takes the time to understand clients’ businesses and shape his advice and support in a way that works for the client’. Work highlights included advising on acquisitions, share buy-backs and issuances, refinancing arrangements and financial services regulatory matters.

Blandy & Blandy LLP gives ‘excellent advice at a fair cost’ to owner-managed businesses, investors and financiers on deals with values up to £25m. Corporate practitioner David Few heads the practice and advised Lloyds Bank in connection with the financing of the acquisition of Witney Lakes Resort, Spa and Golf Club by The Club Company. Few also assisted Search Technologies with the due diligence exercise undertaken on the UK subsidiary in the course of the acquisition of Search Technologies and its global subsidiaries by Accenture. IP practice head Debbie Brett and Nick Burrows, who leads the charity and education team, are the primary contacts for commercial work. Perfetti Van Melle and Launch Diagnostics are also clients.

Gardner Leader LLP is ‘very good in terms of response times and also thoroughness of following up on outstanding items’. The team recently expanded with the hire of senior associate Sarah Samuel-Gibbon, who focuses on advising clients in the technology, media and telecoms sectors, and commercial associate Ami Bhatt, who has a specialism in owner-managed businesses and SMEs in the IT, real estate, telecoms and health sectors. Commercial lawyer Greg Humphreys heads the practice out of the firm’s Newbury office alongside managing partner Derek Rodgers, while Diane Yarrow and Richard Buckeridge are the key figures based in the Maidenhead office.

The team at Spratt Endicott, which is considered 'excellent value for money', operates principally out of the firm’s Banbury and Bicester offices. Name partner and team head John Spratt is ‘excellent at drafting and negotiating complex commercial agreements’, with regular instructions on share purchase agreements, management buy-ins and buy-outs, shareholders’ agreements and international commercial agreements. Director Hitendra Patel provides ‘very practical advice and support on transactions’, with valuable experience of corporate work relating to the technology sector and complex reorganisation projects. Associate Catherine O'Riordan is ‘well organised and has excellent attention to detail’, with expertise in e-commerce law and general commercial matters including data protection and competition law.

Brethertons LLP's areas of expertise include the property management, healthcare, and banking and finance sectors. The practice has had a significant number of instructions on acquisitions and disposals, commercial agreements and business structures, together with work advising clients on compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation. Alison McCormack and Brian Auld lead on corporate and commercial matters respectively.

Clifton Ingram LLP Solicitors' practice is headed by Barry Niven, ‘who is developing a team of knowledgeable and responsive lawyers who seek to understand client needs and tailor their approach and advice to those requirements’. Solicitor Joel Molloy 'is easy and straightforward to deal with and responds efficiently and very effectively’, with Niven and Molloy ‘both offering a responsiveness you expect from a City law firm with the commercial understanding of how to apply their advice in practice to a range of situations’. The team undertakes a broad range of corporate and commercial work, including transaction management, bank security arrangements and work for professional practices such as chartered surveyors, IFAs and estate agents.

Royds Withy King's team is recommended for its ‘responsive and knowledgeable’ solicitors, who exhibit ‘impeccable attention to detail’. Corporate team head John North possesses over 25 years’ experience in a broad range of corporate and commercial transactions, with expertise in joint ventures, reorganisations, and publishing and media contracts. Solicitor Jennifer Sampson is recommended for her ‘attention to detail and explanation of issues’. Sampson notably advised Oxford Genetics on the negotiation of an investment agreement and assisted the client with the disclosure exercise and amendment to its constitutional documents pursuant to the investment terms. Other clients of the firm include HSBC, Invest UK and Oxford Ventures. Iain Butler joined in March 2018 from Shoosmiths LLP.

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