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  1. Commercial litigation: elsewhere in the West Midlands
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Beswicks Legal attracts praise for its ‘personal and professional approach – the lawyers show interest and engagement, and the size of the firm allows it to take care of each client and case with a personal and individual approach’. The practice handles a range of work – sport is a core area for the firm, with clients including football clubs and agents. Gareth Wilkinson, who handles contractual, directors’ duties, equitable winding-up, insolvency and tax disputes, heads the practice with Karen Elder. Elder and associate Sean O’Toole (who joined from Gowling WLG in January 2017) are ‘lawyers with a remarkable level of knowledge and strategy, with an outstanding talent for negotiations’. Stephen Taylor  is also a partner of note.

‘One of the strongest in the region outside Birmingham, and a match for many of the Birmingham city centre firms’, FBC Manby Bowdler LLP is a ‘stellar and slick firm, which combines quality and experience – it is easy to work with and always well-prepared’. Guy Birkett (‘very experienced, calm and sensible’)  represented an engineering company (a rich seam of clients for the firm) seeking a search order concerning breaches of fiduciary duty by an outgoing director who left to join a competitor. Gareth Ruddock (‘bright and affable; he listens very carefully to a client’s objectives and delivers tailored advice') acted for Leonard Curtis Business Solutions in a claim against a director of a company who allegedly siphoned money from a company to purchase property in the UK and Africa – the matter was settled via alternative dispute resolution. The ‘reliable and sensible’ Charlotte Clode defended a High Court claim for a construction company concerning the delivery of equipment; the claimant sought to move the tools worth £1.5m to the Middle East. The aforementioned solicitors are based in the firm's Wolverhampton office. Based in Shrewsbury, Brian Aikman represented a party to a break-up of a family farming partnership, which included a proprietary estoppel claim, concerning £4.5m of assets, as well as handling some competition law cartel cases.

George Green LLP is a ‘good quality, very professional firm more than able to hold its own in substantial commercial disputes against larger firms’. The team handles a diverse range of work, with particular emphasis on technology and engineering. Neil Williams, who has experience of acting as a supervising solicitor, ‘brings a calm, measured and realistic approach to his cases’. He handles product liability cases among other matters involving engineering issues. Morgan Rees (‘a bright, well-organised, hardworking and conscientious litigator who maintains a good command of the detail of his cases’) and associate James Field (‘bright, and very good in cases with an overlap with employment’) represented the former CEO of Synergy Biologics in an unfair prejudice claim from his former employer concerning allegations that investment opportunities worth £37m had been diverted. Field and Rees  defended Olive Communications Solutions in a claim from a former director and employee regarding an alleged agreement for the company to buy back its own shares. Rees also handles directors’ disqualification proceedings.

At Higgs & Sons Julia Lowe is representing a business in three appeals against HMRC’s refusal to refund input VAT, as well as related classification disputes. Lowe also represented a shareholder, formerly a director, of a company in a claim concerning alleged exclusion from a business opportunity. Matt Dudley handles unfair prejudice claims, and is acting for a private individual in a claim against West Midlands Police concerning the lawfulness of a search and arrest which interfered with a business. He also handles freezing injunctions. Associates Ben Tompkins and Jamie de Souza  are also recommended as is consultant Carl Garvie, who is qualified as a barrister.

Wright Hassall LLP handles a mixture of work ranging from restrictive covenant disputes through to defamation cases. Susan Hopcraft successfully defended five independent financial advisers in a £10m claim, which was ultimately withdrawn and indemnity costs awarded against the claimants. Daniel Jennings represented a company in a defamation action, securing additional injunctions on the bases of malicious falsehood and data protection, and acted for a business in a claim against a website operator whose users made derogatory comments about its services. Also recommended are Sarah Perry, who handles contractual disputes, Rhys Jarman, whose workload includes product liability and shareholder disputes, and associate Matthew Goodwin.

Harrison Clark Rickerbys, which has outposts in both Worcester and Hereford, has ‘a large department with strength in depth in this area – it is an excellent firm, with a number of first-rate lawyers’. Elizabeth Beatty in Worcester (who is ‘very sensible and commercially aware – very tough but without being aggressive’) represented Amada, which supplies laser-cutting machinery on hire-purchase terms, in a dispute with administrators of an insolvent client which had custody of one of its machines. Beatty also handles shareholder disputes and unfair prejudice claims. Richard Morgan in Hereford heads the firm’s national litigation team and handles M&A-related disputes. Marc Lazarus is another name of note.

Dudley's Hawkins Hatton Corporate Lawyers Limited ‘takes a completely calm and logical approach to each scenario – clients are guided through the risks and rewards of litigation, and are helped into making a final decision’. Harminder Sandhu is noted for her ‘ability to discuss matters with clients with calmness and certainty, which gives clients confidence in their decisions’. She acted for Sovereign Risk Management in a dispute with a director and minority shareholder who set up a competing business while on long-term sick leave, and separately represented Meridian Metal Trading in a dispute with a client which alleged that its products were defective. Other work concerns construction disputes, contractual disputes relating to supply chains, and product liability.

Lanyon Bowdler is ‘a good quality firm, with nice people who are easy to work with’. Andrew Pegg, who heads the department from the Telford office, represented Viessmann Refrigeration Systems in a dispute with the buyer of one of its blast freezers. His other work concerns shareholder disputes and (in keeping with its position as the NFU panel firm for Shropshire, Herefordshire and Staffordshire) agricultural litigation. Brian Evans in Shrewsbury is ‘an exceptional operator; he has a meticulous attention to detail, and is practical and pragmatic’. Associate Jon Clifford in Hereford leads on farming disputes concerning partnerships.

MFG Solicitors LLP is praised for its ‘client-focused service – it is very good at identifying what the end goals are in any litigation’. Tom Elser, who is ‘great at explaining all the jargon and making clients feel at ease’, continues to act for Waste Spectrum in a dispute concerning the supply of equipment and an agency agreement pertaining to Saudi Arabia; the matter is subject to an ICC arbitration based on UNIDROIT principles. Other key highlights include representing Norton Hydraulics on the removal of a director and the enforcement of restrictive covenants, and assisting L G Harris with reorganising its commercial agents. Samuel Pedley, newly promoted to partner, ‘has that wonderful skill all good lawyers have where they can listen patiently to all the to and fro and white noise that surrounds the emotion of disputes, quickly getting to the point and presenting what is relevant’. He acted for The Thomas Blunt Partnership in a cross-border intellectual property dispute, and separately represented Butcher Woods as trustee in bankruptcy against a former director who attempted a transaction at under value to defraud creditors. Other clients include Midland Marketing, which Pedley represented in a contractual dispute against Colgate-Palmolive.

Thursfields Solicitors is, for some, ‘in another class – the firm appreciates that its clients do not all have legal backgrounds, so does not try to blind you with jargon whilst providing a first-class service’. The ‘very proactive and knowledgeable’ Tim Lawrence represented a leading social media franchisor in a fraud claim against its franchisees, against a backdrop of alleged misrepresentations. Senior associate Lauren Hartigan-Pritchard  is also a name of note. Other highlights concern partnership disputes and enforcement against restrictive covenants. Both named lawyers are based in Worcester.

At Ansons, Martin de Ridder heads a practice which handles various contractual and product defect litigation among other matters. De Ridder, who is based in Cannock, is instructed to represent Team Industrial in a dispute over the termination of a service contract. Also in Cannock, associate Adam Pike represented Powerlite Generators in a dispute against a claim concerning allegedly defective site machinery. Senior associate Jason Alcock in Lichfield is also a key contact – his work includes shareholder disputes and cross-border litigation.

Freeths LLP in Stoke on Trent ‘provides very good service, which is due to its long-standing relationships developed over time – the client has a good understanding of clients’ businesses and ethics’. Stephen Hadley , who heads the practice, handles work including M&A litigation and several disputes over the ownership of property. In one highlight, he advised Baker Tilly as trustees in one of three brothers party to a partnership dispute owning several properties in multiple countries, against a backdrop of alleged conveyancing fraud and impersonation. Natural resources are an area of expertise – the team advises Tarmac on mineral regulation matters.

Knights Professional Services Limited in Newcastle under Lyme has a track record of handling various matters, including contractual disputes and shareholder litigation. David Convey and Kate Clarke are key contacts.

Pickerings Solicitors LLP’s Simon King acted for the defendants in a £100,000 libel claim running in parralel with an employment case, and represented JOIE Children’s Products in a £300,000 claim brought by an individual purporting to be a commercial agent. Other highlights include shareholder disputes, insolvency matters, and cases involving disputes around the provision of services. The firm is based in Tamworth.

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