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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 West > Private client > Agriculture and estates > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Index of tables

  1. Agriculture and estates
  2. Hall of Fame
  3. Leading individuals
  4. Next generation lawyers

Leading individuals

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Next generation lawyers

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Burges Salmon LLP provides ‘a comparable service to that of leading London private client firms’, which is illustrated by the extremely high-profile clients it advises including the National Trust, John Lewis Partnership, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation as well as several private estates and ultra-high-net-worth individuals. The team is led by Tom Hewitt, who advises clients on succession and wealth planning and all aspects of trusts, wills probate and capital tax issues. Sian Edmunds is ‘particularly good at guiding clients through complex and difficult litigation’. The Crown Estate is a key client and a cross-departmental team spearheaded by Edmunds and Richard Owen has recently advised it on issues regarding estate ownership, represented it in disputes arising from the ownership of forestry and acted for it in the High Court trial of The Crown Estate v Wakleys. Agricultural and private client litigation specialist Kevin Kennedy and senior associate Charlotte May are ‘really tough opponents who know how to run a case well and effectively’. Kennedy successfully represented a farmer in a right to occupy the land dispute and is representing trustees of a landed estate in a High Court case against the tenants regarding the possession of the land. Jim Aveline, whose expertise lies in tax, trusts and estate planning, advised a farming family on restructuring the family trusts and company ownership.

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP acts for a significant number of large UK landed estates, and the team includes a number of highly recommended practitioners who are ‘all excellent in their areas of specialism’. The ‘diligent and knowledgeableChristopher Page and senior associate Alexander Caton are recommended for tax planning, estate formation and trust matters; Henry Fea, who divides his time between London and Cheltenham, has notable expertise in advising on offshore structures of ownership; Christian Massey has notable experience in handling landed estate sales and purchases, supported by the ‘committed’ Tristram van Lawick; and senior associate Katie Talbot is recommended for advising landed estates on tax and estate planning. Recent highlights include advising on a refinancing of a multimillion-pound estate, acting on the purchase of a substantial grade I listed country house and completing an estate administration which involved, among other issues, obtaining complete inheritance tax relief. David Marsden joined Trowers & Hamlins LLP’s Birmingham office.

The ‘absolutely first rateMichelmores LLP is ‘one of the foremost leaders in the field’ - ‘an outstandingly excellent firm with a huge amount of agricultural experience’. It handles complex contentious matters such as agricultural arbitrations, Chancery Division disputes on estoppels, misrepresentation actions and right of way disputes. The team is also recognised for its ‘great client skills, commercially sensible approach and tenacity in fighting its client’s corner’. The ‘knowledgeable, intelligent and tactically astuteBen Sharples has ‘an excellent grasp of the law as well as the technical aspects of agriculture and property’. He recently acted in the successful defence of proceedings in the Chancery Division of the High Court seeking the winding up of a family farming partnership and the sale of the farm and assets, and acted for the Sutton family in the successful defence of a High Court claim issued against it by land promoter Gladman Developments. Vivienne Williams is ‘particularly strong on arbitration appeals’, while Tom Hyde is a key name to note for non-contentious agricultural law and rural property transactions, regularly handling multimillion-pound purchases of large agricultural farms. Also in the team, Rachel O’Connor is ‘a real star in the making’ who is ‘incredibly hard-working, absolutely great with clients and wonderful to work with as counsel’.

Thrings LLP is ‘one of the leading agricultural firms nationally with an excellent team that excels in handling Agricultural Holdings Act and proprietary estoppel issues’. The practice has ‘excellent knowledge, providing considered and appropriate advice’, ‘working very well together at the partner, solicitor and administrative levels’. Bath-based practice head Duncan Sigournay successfully acted for an agricultural tenant whose tenancy is protected by the Agriculture Holdings Act 1986 in an eviction dispute against the landlord. Neil Barbour is assisting several major UK banks with secured lending transactions including the provision of a loan to a trust to facilitate the purchase of a farm and the purchase of a £20m farming and sporting estate which has historic significance. Bristol-based Russell Reeves, ‘a tough litigator with excellent client care abilities’, handled a multimillion-pound farm partnership dispute and represented EU Plants in an agricultural rights of way dispute against the neighbouring farm. Associate Robert James, who focuses on contentious agricultural matters, is ‘thorough, hardworking and with a clear appreciation of the important points’. National Farmers Union (NFU), The Badminton Estate, Country Land and Business Association and Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal Trust are other clients of the group.

Clarke Willmott LLP’s ‘extremely strong’ Taunton-based agricultural team routinely assists the NFU on litigation and judicial reviews relating to legislative changes. It also acts for prominent farmers, rural landowners, landed estates and agri-businesses. Recent highlights include Rod Lloyd-Jones acting for an international bank on providing a secured loan for the £2.25m purchase of a farm in Somerset; Mark Buckerfield handling the £3.1m. sale of a livestock farm, which included dealing with third party rights of occupation, access over common land and capital gains tax issues; and ‘energetic’ employment specialist Kate Gardner advising a large farming business in relation to claims from three employees relating to disability and race discrimination as well as unfair dismissal and failure to pay holiday pay. Practice head Tim Hayden has specialist expertise in Hunting Act litigation.

Recognised as ‘one of the main agricultural litigation firms in the south west’, Foot Anstey’s five-partner team also advises on asset and reputation protection as well as strategy planning matters. Some of the work recently handled includes a proprietary estoppel claim, a farming partnership dispute, an arbitration relating to repossession of land rented under an Agricultural Holding Act tenancy, and an enquiry from HMRC connected to a Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) return on the purchase of a rural property. The group is led by Joel Woolf, who has particular experience of handling agricultural bank recoveries matters, and also includes property litigation specialist Edward Venmore, who has ‘the ability to grasp and focus on the key issues in a case, taking a pragmatic view when it comes to achieving a settlement’. Other key clients include the NFU, The Newnham Estate and The Bolitho Estate.

Rural land and agricultural specialist firm Loxley Legal Services LLP, based in Wotton-under-Edge, has ‘an extremely strong and very professional six-partner team’ which ‘invariably puts its clients’ interests first’. Its knowledge and expertise is ‘second to none’ and, according to one client, ‘always gets excellent results’. It is a popular choice for farming partnership disputes and also handles, on the advisory side, the sale and purchases of farms and agricultural land as well as issues relating to telecoms, utilities and minerals. Andrew Baskerville has notable experience in working on the disposals or purchases of large rural estates and development land; Simon Leach, Michael Johnstone, Judith Bell and Fred Harrison-James are ‘out-and-out agricultural litigation experts’.

Stephens Scown LLP’s sizeable rural team includes several highly recommended practitioners spread across its network of offices. In Exeter, Susie Murray has particular expertise in agricultural property, and her recent highlights include advising on the disposal of a multimillion-pound farming business, acting for lenders in a farm refinancing and assisting a landed estate with sporting rights leases while property litigator Mark Richardson handled a rent arrear claim and advised an institutional investor on a series of farmland mandates. In Truro, Richard Baker acts for landowners on the sale of development lands and on the sale of farms to institutional investors and Kate Theophilus recently assisted with the refinancing of a farm that covered registered as well as unregistered land. St Austell-based Phil Reed leads the practice.

Trethowans LLP strengthened its agricultural and rural property team with the hire of Grainne Alen-Buckley from Wilsons in 2016. Practice head Marcus Thorpe, who is ‘excellent at formulating ideas’, recently assisted Lloyds Bank with the £12m refinancing of a farm which was comprised of a principal house, agricultural land and 14 commercial buildings. He has also recently handled a large number of multimillion-pound purchases and sales of farms. The ‘very thoroughElizabeth Webbe is an expert on tax planning regarding onshore and offshore assets. She recently assisted a landowner with the registration of a farm, restructuring the family partnership, estate planning, trust matters and refinancing existing debt. Litigator Kelvin Farmaner is recommended for animal and faming liability cases as well as insurance disputes.

Ashfords LLP’s agricultural team displays ‘a can-do philosophy which concentrates on delivering timely and jargon-free advice’. It advises on a broad range of regulatory issues, including farm-based energy projects, while also handling wealth management and succession planning matters for landed estates and owners of agricultural enterprises. ‘Approachable’ practice head Darren Blackburn is ‘a high-quality conveyancing solicitor who is at the top of his game’. Tom Biddick is ‘becoming a force to be reckoned with’, he is ‘excellent at dealing with clients’ and has ‘a real understanding of a wide range of agricultural matters’. He has a particular specialism in estate planning for farmers and landed individuals dealing with agricultural property relief and business property relief issues. Robert Horsey, who leads the disputed wills and trusts team, advises on agricultural landlord and tenant disputes and proprietary estoppel claims.

Blanchards Bailey LLP advises on all aspects of agricultural and business law, from land development and renewable energy to partnerships, disputes and commercial contracts. Paul Dunlop and Sarah Heath are the key names to note, focusing on agricultural litigation and property matters respectively while Jerome Dodge is recommended for estate planning and inheritance tax planning. Edward O’Brien is ‘very thorough, diligent and has good legal instincts’.

Bond Dickinson LLP acts for a number of England’s significant landowners including the National Trust, English Heritage, the NFU, The Agricultural Mortgage Corporation and The Church Commissioners. The group is led by Robert Drewett, who is ‘excellent at keeping a straight-down-the-line approach’, ‘steering clients firmly but gently through any troubled waters to gain a satisfactory conclusion’. His recent instructions include the sale of a farm, the restructuring of the assets of a farming family and representing a client in opposing an attempt by the local authority to create a footpath through a farmyard.

At Mogers Drewett LLP, Jonathan Cheal has specialist expertise in public and private rights of way, advising on the management of public access on land, from preventing untoward public access to defending applications made by user groups for new routes. Recent highlights for agriculture and rural affairs practice head Frank Collins include assisting a landowner with the £14m refinancing of properties through a private bank.

Royds Withy King advises banks on secured lending mandates and acts for landowners on agricultural property, tax and estate planning issues. It also handles contentious trust matters including Inheritance Act claims and farming family disputes relating to estate administration. Angus Williams is capable of ‘quickly establishing and maintaining good client relationships, and importantly providing pragmatic problem-solving advice when issues have arisen’. He regularly handles complex sales and disposals of farms. Amanda Noyce is another key name, recently handling a multimillion-pound proprietary estoppel claim.

Willans LLP is ‘a highly professional firm which is well structured to deal with farms and landed estates’ on the full range of transactional matters including secured lending in relation to rural property. The ‘approachableRobin Beckley is ‘very experienced in farms and landed estates’, particularly in the area of development land disposals by option, conditional contract and promotion agreements. He ‘gets to the bottom of matters quickly and effectively’, ‘cuts through the waffle and straight to the important issues’, and ‘takes a thoroughly practical view of how to keep a deal going’. Recent instructions include sales and purchases of land and land registration.

Battens Solicitors Limited’s Sherborne-based agricultural team, led by James Owen, combines ‘a deep understanding of the farming business’ with ‘commercial awareness’. Owen is supported by rural property specialist Judy Hayter who is ‘knowledgeable, diligent and approachable’. The team handles succession planning involving Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies and farm business tenancies.

Cirencester-based Sewell Mullings & Logie’s ‘very capable lawyers’ adopt ‘a friendly approach’. Its clients include landowners and businesses who have instructed the firm for decades on a broad range of transactions including estate planning, tax and trusts. Nicholas Parsons is ‘quick to appreciate nuances and complications and explains issues well’. Carol Morris is experienced in advising on inheritance tax planning, trusts administration, power of attorney and court of protection applications.

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Legal Developments in South West for Agriculture and estates

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