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United Kingdom > South East > Private client > Agriculture and estates > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

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  1. Agriculture and estates
  2. Leading individuals
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Boodle Hatfield LLP's agriculture and estates team is 'a leader in its field'. It provides 'top-quality, practical and user-friendly advice' to high-net-worth individuals and landowners (including more than 80 landed estates) on the full range of agricultural and rural business matters. The practice has been particularly active in providing advice to young entrepreneurial heirs and owners of landed estates on tax-efficient business ventures, and continues to provide probate, tax structuring, succession planning and rural conveyancing advice. The 'excellent' Fiona Graham handles a wide array of work for UK and non-UK domiciled high-net-worth individuals; her recent work includes advising a landed estate in the Home Counties on a change of trustees and the introduction of a nominee structure to administer the land and make it less onerous to change the trustees in the future, as well as advising on the tax structuring of development land on the edge of the estate to ensure it is kept in trust for the benefit of the owners' children. Natasha Hassall's expertise covers asset protection and devolution issues, capital tax planning, and advice related to onshore and offshore trusts, tax planning and wills.

Cripps LLP is widely regarded as a 'go-to firm for agriculture and estates work', with the practice providing 'an excellent, fast and reliable service' to a number of high-net-worth individuals and landed estates. It handles a wide range of agricultural and rural issues, from buying and selling farms, to handling issues involving rights of way, development, options and overage agreements, to stamp duty land tax. Key figures include the 'hugely experienced' Sally Firby (who 'will not stop until the job is done'); Darren Philpot, whose 'care and attention cannot be faulted - he is always at the end of the phone to answer any questions'; and Nick Fagg, who joined in September 2017 from Rix & Kay Solicitors LLP.

Freeths LLP attracts praise for its 'excellent grasp of agricultural law', with clients singling out practice head Iain Davis ('approachable, very knowledgeable and supremely efficient'), Samantha Leigh ('highly knowledgeable and willing to go the extra mile') and the 'hugely efficient' Sarah Duffy as key figures among the sizeable team. Also recommended are tax, probate and trusts specialist Jane Maitland, Balvinder Jaj, who is noted for his focus on greenfield and brownfield site developments and agricultural lending, and Lesley Pollock, who specialises in the acquisition and disposal of country houses. In an illustration of the practice's agricultural property expertise, Duffy led the team assisting with a grant of promotion agreement over 25 acres of land near Didcot, Oxford, as well as acting on the acquisition of adjoining land and the negotiation and grant of an option agreement with the county council in respect a school expansion site. In another highlight, Leigh assisted the trustees of a landed estate with the letting of a listed manor house, including advising on the consequences of the removal of the land from a stewardship scheme and sale of entitlements.

Irwin Mitchell's agriculture and estate practice 'has emerged as a leader in this field in the South East', with clients singling out practice head James Pavey for his ability to combine 'a fantastic eye for detail, strong strategic and tactical nous, and a passion for client care'. The practice, which is formed of the merged teams from legacy firms Thomas Eggar and Berkeley Law, comprises  specialists who act for private, commercial and institutional clients in the rural sector, including 38 landed and agricultural estates on the full range of agricultural matters, from high-value tax planning advice to routine property management work. Recent highlights include acting for Denbies Wine Estate on the sale of development land forming part of a large rural estate; and advising a registered charity on the sale of a 15th century listed house in 22 acres of parkland, which involved handling planning issues related to its listed status and compliance with the Charities Act regarding the surveyor's report. Pavey's expertise encompasses public and private law advice on behalf of rural landholdings, high-net-worth individuals and institutional landowners. Also recommended are Iain MacLeod, who acts for large estates as well as smaller estates and farms; James Letchford, who relocated to the firm's Gatwick office in 2017 and acts for landowners in development matters; Andrew Parry, who has significant expertise in lifetime and post-death tax and succession planning; and senior associate Nicola Gooch, who handles rural planning and environmental matters.

'A market leader in the field', Warners Solicitors is 'a professional, friendly firm whose staff are knowledgeable and trustworthy'. Headed by Steve Colville, the agriculture and estates practice handles the full range of work in this area, from advice on the purchase and sale of farms, estates and grouse moors, and landlord and tenant work involving rural property, farms and estates, to contentious work including disputes of sporting rights, boundaries and other land disputes. It also has unique expertise in criminal and regulatory work affecting farms and estates, including defending against wildlife, farming, shooting and hunting related investigations and prosecutions. Recent work includes acting for a master of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt who was prosecuted under the Public Order Act following alleged threats towards a high-profile hunt saboteur. Criminal and regulatory law specialist Tim Ryan led on that matter and is recommended alongside disputes specialist Michael McNally and associate Samantha Bradburne.

Birkett Long LLP is praised for its 'broad and deep experience and expertise', which makes its agriculture and estates team 'as good and in many cases better than others in the region'. The practice is headed by the 'very knowledgeable and helpful' Caroline Dowding, who 'finds exactly the right balance between professionalism and approachability'; she has wide-ranging expertise covering taxation, succession planning, partnership agreements, powers of attorney, and trusts and probate. Other key figures include the 'extremely thorough' Emma Coke, who is noted for her track record handling agriculture-related transactions; Bruce Ballard, who advises individuals on tax planning; and Katie Gibson-Green. The practice continued to act in a dispute related to a historic agricultural tenancy regulated under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, which settled in mid-2017 with consent to assign negotiated on behalf of the client and the landlord conceding its proprietary estoppel claim.

Birketts LLP's agriculture and estates team acts for farmers and landowners on freehold sales and purchases, agriculture and commercial diversification, tenancy issues, renewable energy projects, family business structuring, partnerships, and wills, trusts and estate planning. Jack Royall heads the practice and handles an array of property-related work, including landlord and tenant matters, as well as land acquisitions and disposals and advice on renewable energy projects. Other key figures include Annabelle Rout, whose expertise encompasses refinancings and agricultural tenancy work, among other property-related matters; and Leo McMahon, who is noted for his focus on farming partnership matters.

Blake Morgan LLP's team handles the full gamut of agricultural law issues for national and local clients including families with landed estates, landowners, farmers, agricultural businesses and a variety of trusts, partnerships, corporate bodies and institutions involved in the rural sector. Areas of expertise include tax and trust advice; strategic planning and restructuring; advice relating to renewable energy projects; assisting with employment issues including contract farming agreements and farm business tenancies; rural land issues, including equine property; and advising farmers and rural landowners on development issues. Oliver Sowton heads the practice, which includes Caroline Lindon-Morris.

Brachers' 'knowledge of agricultural matters is very good - the team always responds quickly with appropriate technical and pragmatic advice'. The firm has longstanding relationships with clients including Hadlow College, East Malling Trust, Kent County Agricultural Society and landowning families, for which it handles overage, conditional contracts and promotion agreements, among other matters. headed by the 'very knowledgeable' Sarah Webster, the practice was strengthened by the recruitment of Deborah Cain from Griffith Smith LLP, Mary Rimmer from Stephens & Son incorporating Parry's & Baillie, and Emma Harris from asb law LLP. Christopher Eriksson-Lee is also recommended.

Furley Page Solicitors' agriculture and estates team is rated by clients for is industry knowledge, which enables it to 'rapidly get up to speed when faced with novel challenges - advice is thorough and well considered, with appropriate consideration given to clients' concerns'. Senior associate and practice head Ethan Desai is singled out for his 'thorough and perceptive approach'; he acts for agricultural and rural clients in general property matters, and is noted for his renewable energy and development expertise. He works alongside Christopher Wacher to handle a range of agricultural diversification matters, including advice on land promotion agreements and other residential development opportunities. Recent highlights include acting for TG1 Holding on its acquisition of Thanet Growers Three, which involved advising on a complex title relating to the UK's largest greenhouse complex, located in north Kent.

Knights is 'a solid and well-established performer' in the agriculture and rural sector, with clients singling out the practice for its experience in defending agricultural occupiers - 'whether the issue be related to planning permission, compulsory or private acquisition, nuisance, alternative energy proposals or bad neighbour development, the firm is a focused and efficient provider of specialist advice to the agricultural sector'. Name partner Matthew Knight is 'a very experienced, well-informed and urbane operator who inspires client confidence'; he works alongside the 'meticulous, clear and thorough' Peter Burfoot, who 'brings a sensible approach to difficult cases'. The practice's clients include the National Farmers' Union, Tenant Farmers' Association and the National Gamekeepers' Organisation, for which it operates legal helplines for its members. Recent work includes acting for Hook & Son in a dispute with Southern Water concerning its right to cut off a sewerage connection for the disposal of effluence from farm buildings owned by the client.

Moore Blatch LLP fields a 'very knowledgeable' rural services team that provides 'good, honest advice, delivered with impartiality and that can be trusted as correct'. Headed by Edward Whittington ('pleasant to work with, able to navigate his way through any problem, and with integrity by the bucketload'), the practice handles the full range of agricultural law matters, with an emphasis on assisting landowners with the sale of land to developers. Other areas of work handled by the team in 2017 included agricultural tenancy advice, tax and trusts advice, employment advice, and inheritance tax succession issues. Philip Whitcomb and Sarah Jordan are also recommended.

Spratt Endicott's agricultural law team is praised for its 'efficient and professional' service and for its ability to 'meet all deadlines and go beyond the call of duty at times when required'. The practice is headed by Christopher Goldingham, who is noted for his 'calm, ordered approach and excellent advice'. Goldingham's expertise covers all aspects of agricultural law, as well as property development matters. Other key figures include David Endicott, who is 'truly outstanding within his field'.

Tees Law is noted for its 'strong presence in the region and good depth within the team'. Headed by the 'effective, pro-active and user-friendly' David Miller, the practice handles a wide-ranging workload (covering acquisition and disposal of farm land and estates, tenancy advice under the Agricultural Holdings Act and Farm Business Tenancy regimes, and strategic land arrangements, among other matters) for private landowners and family-owned agricultural businesses both small and large. It also acts for a number of agricultural bodies, including the National Farmers' Union and Country Land and Business Association. In an illustration of the firm's track record handling farm sales and acquisitions, Miller acted alongside Sarah Pateman on the purchase of more than 290 acres of land in Cambridgeshire, which involved advising on overages for the benefit of DEFRA and the transfer of Basic Payment Scheme entitlements including a retention provision and re-letting of the land under a new farm business tenancy. Also recommended are Govan Bramley, who regularly advises landowners on strategic land agreements.

Woodfines LLP attracts praise for its 'practical advice and ability to meet essential deadlines'. The firm's multi-disciplinary team handles the full range of issues for rural and farming clients, from commercial, rural and agricultural land matters, to providing tax, trusts and probate advice. Key figures include agriculture and rural property head Charlotte Benjamin, who regularly handles agricultural land sales and purchases, as well as diversification matters; John Egan, who heads the family department practice and acts for high-net-worth individuals in financial claims, often involving substantial estates; and Stephen Patch, who joined the firm in 2017 from Taylor Vinters.

Adams & Remers fields a team of 'exceptionally knowledgeable and skilful agriculture and estates lawyers' who are 'all easy to work with, helpful and reliable'. The 'no-nonsense' Katherine Haslam heads the practice, which acts for owners and managers of landed estates and farms on a range of issues, with recent growth in option and promotion agreements and refinancings. Recent work includes acting for a longstanding client on the first registration of unregistered land forming part of the Estate, which involved research into manorial rights and  manorial waste; and assisting with the purchase of farmhouse, outbuildings, cottages and farmland for the purposes of the client's new farming business. Also recommended are senior partner Robin Illingworth , who is noted for his 'common-sense approach and extensive experience', and partner James Turner , who is 'particularly good at sorting out complications in a practical and commercially viable way'.

Field Seymour Parkes LLP acts for farmers and landowners on the full range of agricultural law services, from transactional property matters to advising on tax matters and on farming regulation, subsidies and countryside stewardship. Diversification of farming activities has been a key theme over the last twelve months, with the practice assisting with sporting rights, the letting of light industrial units, the establishment of farm shops, as well as the installation of solar farms and anaerobic digesters. Recent highlights include advising on the gifting of farmland to the client's son, which was subject to agricultural property relief, as well as on the gift of a commercial yard to be held in a discretionary trust. Hazel Eccles re-joined the practice in October 2017 from Freeths LLP; she leads the agricultural team, which includes James Burgess, who has more than 30 years' experience in agricultural property matters, Sarah Wray, who acts for high-net-worth individuals and farmers on disposals and acquisitions, and Kelsie Essenhigh.

Gepp & Sons Solicitors LLP has an extensive track record advising on the development of farm land, farm tenancies, financing, property acquisitions and disposals, and rights of way issues, among other agricultural law matters. Edward Worthy is the name to note.

Rix & Kay Solicitors LLP has a longstanding track record advising farmers and rural business owners in Sussex, Kent and beyond on issues concerning the rural business communities in the region. Key figures include Richard Cripps, who is regularly called on to advise on issues stemming from the acquisition and sale of rural property, from secured financing transactions to shareholder and partnership agreements; and Bruce Hayter who has more than 30 years' experience working with farming clients across the South East.

Clients rate Thompson Smith and Puxon as 'a professional firm with an excellent knowledge of all matters relating to agriculture and estates', with Kerry Addison singled out for her ability to handle matters with 'the utmost tact and diplomacy'. The practice's agricultural law expertise encompasses advice on commercial and real estate issues, as well as estate planning, taxation and succession issues. In 2017, the team acted for landowners and developers on site acquisitions and disposals totalling £120m in value; assisted with agricultural tenancy matters including surrenders and regrants; and advised farmers and agribusinesses on employment issues ranging from restructuring and redundancy exercises to disciplinary procedures. Practice head Stephen Firmin 'takes the time to ensure that the client's objectives are fully understood and tailors advice to achieve those objectives'.

Thomson Snell & Passmore draws on expert practitioners from across its private client department to handle the full range of commercial and residential conveyancing, corporate transactions, employment matters, and disputes for landowners, estates, landowning trusts, tenants and developers. Sue Lister heads the team and has an extensive track record handling agricultural and rural property sales and acquisitions, as well as handling farm tenancies and agreements, renewable energy leases and projects, among other matters. Other key figures include real estate expert Gilbert Green, and head of probate Helen Stewart, who regularly handles high-value estate administration matters.

Whitehead Monckton handles a range of agricultural matters, from tax and succession planning to farm acquisitions and disposals. Real estate expert Robert Coombe and tax specialist Stephen Beck are the names to note.

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Legal Developments in South East for Agriculture and estates

  • Parking rights: here to stay? Consent might be the surprising answer ‚Ä©

    In the field of the acquisition of easements by prescription, little has caused more consternation over the last decade or so than the question of whether a right to park cars can be acquired by twenty years user as of right. The types of property capable of being adversely affected range from individual residential units all the way up to major development sites. The establishment of such a right can have a devastating impact on the value of the burdened land.‚Ä©
    - Falcon Chambers

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