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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 > Real estate > Property litigation > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Index of tables

  1. Property litigation
  2. Hall of Fame
  3. Leading individuals

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Bond Dickinson LLP is ‘a serious property litigation firm that can hold its own with any of its rivals, whether in London or in the South West’. The team acts for public and private sector clients, with particular specialisms in the energy, retail, rail and transport and energy sectors. The Bristol team is led by Patrick Wetherall (‘a tactical litigator, who understands his client commercial needs’), who is handling the contentious aspects of Three Rivers District Council’s £150m South Oxhey regeneration project. Other key matters for the team included representing Ashfield Land in a dispute arising out of the validity of the client’s right to exercise an option to purchase 47 acres of development land; this matter was successfully resolved in mediation, with Ashfield obtaining permission to purchase the development land. The ‘experienced and intelligentJames Rees regularly acts for landlords and tenants in high-value real estate disputes. Also recommended are managing associates Stephanie Doyle and Sasha Hinton. Other clients include Network Rail Infrastructure, River Island Clothing Co, Scottish Power and the National Farmers Union.

Burges Salmon LLP’s property litigation department acts for corporate clients, as well as local authorities and other public bodies, on a range of contentious matters, including property insolvency and ADR. Richard Bedford heads the department and defended Torbay Borough Council in multimillion-pound claims for damages in relation to alleged breaches of a development agreement regarding the Oldway Mansion in Paignton. Bedford also advised Wedlake Bell LLP as LPA receivers of a shopping centre in relation to a dispute over a keep-open covenant in the anchor tenant lease. In addition to his contentious real estate expertise, James Sutherland handles real estate insolvency matters and represented Bristol Rovers (1883) in a £30m dispute with Sainsbury’s concerning the aborted sale of the Memorial Stadium in Bristol. Sutherland also acted for an investment bank in rent review arbitration involving its head office building in London. Clients also single out senior associates David Benjamin and Chris Preston. Other notable clients include John Lewis, Waterstones Booksellers, The Crown Estate and National Trust.

The property litigation lawyers at Clarke Willmott LLP are ‘pleasant and approachable, but prepared to be as aggressive as necessary to get the right answer for clients’. The sizeable practice acts for a wide-ranging client base encompassing the retail, investment, housing and public sectors. Chris Taylor leads the practice and is acting in a multimillion-pound dispute regarding a major housing development. Other key figures include Graham McIntyre, who successfully represented Lidl UK in a multimillion-pound High Court dispute with Generator Developments LLP concerning a development site in Brentwood; the ‘knowledgeable and responsiveNicola Seager, who provides ongoing advice to private equity firm Marcol in relation to contentious issues arising from its UK property portfolio; and Simon Freeman, who acts for Ashtenne Industrial Fund on contentious issues of its property portfolio, and represented Corren Properties Limited in connection with a £2m dilapidation claim concerning an office building in Chiswick. Also recommended are Bonnie Martin, Kary Withers, Neil Ham and Amy Rudrum, who focuses on landlord and tenant litigation.

Osborne Clarke’s property litigation team has specialisms in development disputes in the residential housing, energy and infrastructure sectors. It also acts for telecoms providers on land right issues, handles landlord and tenant disputes across the UK, and provides advice on contentious issues to pension fund and investor clients. Practice head Leona Briggs is representing Western Power Distribution (South West) in a dispute with Network Rail over the costs of diverting existing electricity apparatuses in connection with the electrification of Great Western Mainline and Midlands Mainlines. Briggs also acted for a subsidiary of Heineken in a high-value indemnity claim. David Shakesby, who focuses on property disputes in the energy and infrastructure sectors, is acting for SSE in relation to a CPO regarding land rights related to high-voltage cabling needed for network reinforcement in Oxfordshire. Senior associate Jane Rogers is also recommended. Other notable clients include Marks & Spencer, Wales & West Utilities and BDW Trading.

For some, Ashfords LLP is ‘plainly, one of the best firms for property litigation in the West Country, with strength in depth and a number of talented individuals’. Group head Sian Gibbon (whose ‘property knowledge is second to none’) acted for Exeter City Council on the contentious aspects of its £75m redevelopment of the Exeter Bus and Coach Station. Gibbon acted alongside Victoria Bonnet for Lloyds Banking Group on secured and unsecured lending recovery litigation. Rob Nicholson represented CDS Stores International in a £3m misrepresentation claim against a landlord following the discovery of asbestos in the client’s commercial property in Northern England. One of the firm’s ‘leading talents’, Robert Horsey specialises in trust issues associated with agricultural properties. Other clients include The London Borough of Wandsworth, Majestic Wine and Yorkley Court Farm.

Clients of DAC Beachcroft LLP rate it as a pre-eminent firm in the South West for large retail and shopping centre work, and single the firm out for providing ‘service that is indistinguishable from that provided by any City firm’. The team also handles contentious work for NHS trusts and local authorities. The ‘vastly experiencedNick Knapman was made regional senior partner in 2016 and heads the property litigation team. Knapman is leading a team handling ongoing contentious issues associated with Westfield Europe’s Westfield Stratford City and Westfield London sites. ‘Clever, painstakingly thorough and very easy to get on with’, associate Alison Moore acts for Clark’s Shoe in litigation and contentious asset management issues arising from the client’s national retail portfolio. The ‘proactive’ Richard Marshall assisted North Bristol NHS Foundation Trust with the removal of more than 40 traveller caravans that had occupied a strip of strategic development land. Other notable clients include Zurich Insurance, EE and AXA.

With deep expertise in litigation and ADR, Foot Anstey’s property litigation team is active in development disputes, insolvency matters and contentious agricultural property issues. The department is headed by the highly regarded Richard Bagwell, who attracts praise for providing clients with ‘realistic probabilities of success and alternative approaches’; he regularly acts for landed estates and public authorities. Bagwell also acts for private sector clients, and is representing the tenants of Exeter Fun Park and Arnold Palmer Golf Club in relation to a contested lease renewal in a claim brought under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 against East Devon District Council. He is also acting alongside Daniel Cuthbert for The Mayor and Burgess of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in a right to light claim against Sainsbury’s. St Austell Brewery Company, Berkeley Homes and the Police and Crime Commission for Devon and Cornwall are also clients.

The property litigation department at TLTcompares very favourably’ to other teams in the South West and is singled out for its sector strengths in the areas of leisure, retail, housing, energy and financial services. Mark Routley heads the practice and is noted for his ‘knowledge, professionalism and likability’. Routley advises Covent Garden Market Authority on the landlord and tenant aspects of the redevelopment of a 52-acre site at Nine Elms in London. The practice is also advising Greene King on the introduction of the new Pubs Code, which created an independent adjudicator to arbitrate disputes among the six biggest pub-owning businesses in the UK. The team’s public sector workload has grown in 2016 and 2017; Alex Payne is representing London Borough of Lambeth in a £375,000 County Court claim for damages. Kane Kirkbride, who focuses on housing disputes, and acts primarily for registered providers and housing associations.

VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards)’s ‘young and talented’ property litigation team shows ‘a lot of promise’. The team has expertise in acting for clients in the education and public sectors and provides advice to a number of private sector clients concerning their property portfolios. ‘Extremely knowledgeable and commercial’ department head Michelle Bendall has a track record providing contentious lease, options and dilapidations advice to private sector clients such as Airbus and PwC. Bendall is acting alongside the ‘methodical’ Daniel Hall for Highways England in relation to a long-running trespassing claim, which was concluded in 2016. Hall’s other public sector clients include Wessex Water and Fareham Borough Council. Also recommended are Naomi Chesterman, who specialises in licencing matters; and the ‘smart and diligent’ Georgina Little, who focuses on landlord and tenant work for public bodies.

Bevan Brittan LLP provides ‘straightforward, no-nonsense advice’ to the firm’s clients in the public sector, and fields a specialised housing disputes team. Steve Eccles heads the practice and acted for the Local Government Association in relation to a dispute with mobile providers EE and Three concerning the redevelopment of the client’s office building in Farringdon. Eccles also provides ongoing advice to NHS Property Services regarding dilapidations, break notices and squatters, among other contentious property matters, and represented London Borough of Hounslow in an arbitration appeal before the High Court regarding the manner in which rent should be paid in accordance with a group of commercial tenants’ leases. Renotkil Initial is among the firm’s private sector clients, and the property litigation team provides ongoing advice to the client in relation to issues such as landlord and tenant disputes and lease terminations.

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP acts for public and private sector clients in a wide range of property ownership and agricultural tenancy claims. The Cheltenham office’s property litigation team has undergone some notable changes: David Marsden joined Trowers & Hamlins LLP, while ‘razor-sharp’ senior associate Paul Dench, joined the team from Gordon Dadds LLP. In a highlight matter, associate Emma Preece was part of a team acting for Europa Oil and Gas on the possession of a drilling site which had been occupied by protesters demonstrating against the company’s permission to drill for oil exploration and extraction. Dench and Preece regularly act for clients such as The Ernest Cook Trust, Hackney Joint Estate Charity and The Bathurst Estate on possession and lease renewal actions across their respective property portfolios.

The property litigation group at Davitt Jones Bouldcompetes with the national firms in terms of quality of work and calibre of lawyers’, and is ‘accustomed to dealing with complex litigation’. The three-partner litigation team acts for a host of public sector clients, as well as clients in the private sector. As one of the two firms in the country acting for Highways England, a team including Maeve Bonner has been advising the client on notices to quit in the run-up to property disposals, and also assisted with the removal of travellers. John Smith is a ‘tenacious and hardworking’ litigator who acts for a number of government bodies; he successfully concluded a high-value rent review regarding a significant London property. In an example of the group’s private sector work, Ted Dancey advised Westmorland on the removal of a large group of travellers from one of the client’s service stations.

Michelmores LLP’s property litigation team attracts praise for its ‘pragmatic, first-class advice’. The practice is on the panels of a number of public sector bodies, and also acts for a range of housebuilder and developer clients. Practice head Andrew Baines, who has more than two decades of contentious property experience, has been involved in the relocation of commercial tenants in relation to a large regeneration project, and also acted in a multimillion-pound property finance dispute. Senior associate Naomi Cunningham has experience in cases concerning right to light, restrictive covenants, dilapidations and rent reviews. Michael Langdon retired in 2016.

Stephens Scown LLP is well known in the South West for its ‘substantial property litigation practice’. The team has experience of a variety of contentious property issues in the mining and mineral, waste, leisure and rural and agricultural sectors. The ‘commercial and practical’ Mike Davies is representing a housing association in relation to a service charge dispute with a leaseholder and is also handling a licensing dispute for a waste management client. Toby Claridge is acting for Victoria Parc (Bodmin) Management Company in relation to an application to set aside the transfer of a strip of freehold property. Other key figures include Mark Richardson, who focuses on agricultural and residential landlord and tenant issues, as well as rights of way, leasehold enfranchisement and trespass claims; Davina Haydon, who acted in a substantial right of way dispute in Falmouth; and Ian Thomas, who was involved in a boundary and trespass claim in 2016 concerning a shared driveway.

Thrings LLP’s property litigation team handles commercial tenancy work in relation to corporate portfolio management and also acts for occupiers and landlords in matters such as enfranchisement and dilapidations. Department head Warren Reid acts on portfolio management and property disputes, including boundary issues, and advised on a range of contentious lease renewals in 2016 and 2017. Reid also provides ongoing lease and tenant advice to Waitrose, Countrywide Estate Agents and Michael Tatters assisted a client with a long licence dispute concerning the use of a car park and negotiated a lease agreement with a landlord and co-tenant following court proceedings brought by the co-tenant, which was seeking to sell the entire leasehold. Gemma Featonby also recommended.

According to some clients, Trowers & Hamlins LLP’s property litigation group provides ‘advice that is more practical than others in the area – it finds solutions rather than just regurgitating the law’. Practice head Jason Hobday (who attracts praise for his ‘extraordinary knowledge of the practice area’) acted for Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing in a possession claim against an organised crime organisation operating in the estate in which the client’s property was situated. Hobday’s other key mandates included acting for Knightstone Housing Association in an appeal of the decision to classify certain residential tenants under ‘exemption accommodation’, which affected the financial viability of new housing developments undertaken by the client. Senior associate Jenny Standfast is also recommended.

Laceys Solicitors incorporating HLF is known for handling commercial and residential landlord and tenant disputes and has handles several significant freehold property disputes in 2016 and 2017. Department head Mark Timberlake specialises in contentious work regarding blocks of flats; his recent work includes advised commercial landlords on dilapidations claims and tenant insolvency issues, as well as handling debt recovery matters in relation to tenant breaches. Chris Bright, who joined the firm from Lester Aldridge LLP in 2016, acts for landlords and residential management companies in a variety of residential tenant disputes. Pete Johnson leads the active housing disputes practice and represents tenants in relation to unlawful evictions, possession proceedings and antisocial behaviour injunctions. Brendan Herbert and Rob Kelly’s work included rights of way, boundary and restrictive covenant disputes.

The property litigation team at Lester Aldridge LLP is now led by Kate Stewart, who joined the team from Moore Blatch LLP, following the departure of Jenny Hermer, who left for a general counsel position. Stewart has experience of all areas of contentious landlord and tenant work and recently represented the tenant of a large industrial unit regarding the service of an invalid break notice. Stewart also acts for property investors, and is defending a series of offshore companies in a damages claim resulting from their interest in a property investment in London. Charlotte Wilson is also recommended.

Pardoes Solicitors LLP’s Yeovil-based property litigation group attracts praise for its ‘outstanding legal knowledge and ability to apply it in practical and cost-effective ways’. The team works closely with and regularly receives referrals from the firm’s commercial property and corporate teams. ‘Simply exceptional’ practice head Bhavani Hogarty has extensive experience of all areas of property litigation and advised a prominent estate in West Dorset in relation to a tenant’s claim for tenancy protection under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 concerning a notice to vacate. Nigel Kinder has acted in a number of residential tenancy disputes and also negotiated a settlement and sale of a parcel of land to a statutory body.

Royds Withy King’s wide-ranging expertise covers leasehold enfranchisement, the enforcement of covenants and easements, and claims relating to the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.The practice is headed by Caroline Preist, ‘a robust litigator’ who is singled out for her track record in high-value property disputes. In 2016, Preist in a number of boundary disputes, dilapidations claims and commercial tenant matters; highlights included acting for the landlord of a substantial residential property regarding the termination of a tenant contract which had been protected under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Other key figures include ‘conscientious and hardworking’ associate Marianne Johns, who has experience of a wide range of property disputes.

The property litigation team at Steele Raymond LLP attracts praise for its ‘modern, forward-thinking approach’. The team primarily acts for local and regional corporates and organisations, as well as individuals. The department is headed by ‘capable and enthusiastic’ senior associate Simone Ritchie, whose experience runs the gamut of contentious property issues, and who is ‘a truly ace litigator’. Ritchie is acting in a matter involving a restrictive covenant for a national beverage chain and is representing various clients in landlord and tenant disputes. Peter Rolph heads the wider litigation group and is also recommended.

Trethowans LLPcompares favourably to other firms in the area’ and covers a range of disputes relating to commercial, residential and agricultural property. The department has particular strength in dealing with rent and service charge arrears claims, and has been involved in a number of landlord and tenant disputes during the course of 2016 and 2017. Department head Ian Singleton is providing ongoing advice to two household name clients in relation to possession proceedings against commercial and residential tenants and arrears claims.

The property litigation team at Willans LLP handles boundary disputes and enforcement of covenants, and has a particular emphasis on commercial landlord and tenant work. Practice head Nick Cox advised Alexandra House Gloucester RTM Company with an application under the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 to acquire the management functions of its landlord. Cox also acted for Hampden Property Developments in a claim for unpaid rents due to conflicting dates on a memorandum amending the rent obligations. Senior associate Nick Southwell is involved in a nuisance claim against Tewkesbury Borough Council concerning the removal of land that supported his client’s property.

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Legal Developments in South West for Property litigation

  • New ‘ROE Bill’ draft published

    Following from the recent public outcry regarding the lack of ‘transparency’ in the UK property market, a new ‘ROE Bill’ draft has now been published.
    - Hudson McKenzie

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