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The West Midlands chapter covers Birmingham and the surrounding counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, the Black Country, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

Birmingham’s precarious status as the UK’s second city has been somewhat bolstered by the ongoing property boom in the region, with key developments including the Grand Central retail development, the i54 enterprise zone and the HS2/Curzon Street development; and while London continues to dominate the UK commercial property market, high costs and low volumes of available space have also caused many would-be investors to look towards Birmingham. In the UK’s highest-profile relocation post global recession, HSBC followed Deutsche Bank into Birmingham by moving its headquarters from Canary Wharf to Arena Central.

Resultant legal work has not been limited to real estate, with many substantial corporate deals attending the property upturn, most notably the £307m sale of the NEC to LDC. Smaller transactional work has also benefited, with legal practitioners noting an increase in business sales. Litigation, particularly in relation to breaches of warranties in share purchase agreements, has picked up too. Outside of Birmingham, legal advice continued to focus on the dominant manufacturing sector, with Jaguar Land Rover being the region’s biggest success story, making up one-fifth of all UK exports to China.

The internationalisation of FTSE businesses originating in the West Midlands increasingly has been mirrored by law firms operating locally; the headline story for the last 12 months was undoubtedly Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co LLP’s 2016 merger with Canadian law firm Gowlings to form Gowling WLG. In another significant legal transformation, Gateley Plc became the first UK law firm to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Gowling WLG’s substantial offering continues to dwarf most of the other practices in the region, with real estate being a particular driver of the firm. The recent Canadian tie-up has led to rebranding and an increasing focus on London work, but the firm remains a regional powerhouse.

Eversheds LLP’s Birmingham office is second only to its London headquarters and the firm has leading expertise in areas such as corporate and real estate. Examples of high-profile commercial property work include Paradise Circus, Grand Central and the relocation of HSBC.

DLA Piper UK LLP recently appointed Birmingham-based Sandra Wallace as the firm’s new UK managing partner – the first time that the position has gone to a partner based outside London. Another key appointment was the hire of Trevor Ivory from Howes Percival LLP to take over the national planning team.

Gateley Plc made legal market history with its initial public offering and listing on AIM. The real estate team has been particularly busy – it is ideally placed to cash in on the government’s requirement for new-build residential property, acting as it does for 17 of the top 20 UK housebuilders.

Pinsent Masons LLP further developed its impressive banking and finance practice with the hire of restructuring specialist Amy Flavell from Squire Patton Boggs. Other positives include an imminent move to new premises at 55 Colmore Row and the promotion of five to the partnership.

DWF’s rapid ascent in the region, by way of a takeover of Buller Jeffries, shows no sign of abatement. The team has particular strength in commercial litigation and impresses with its new premises at One Snowhill.

Irwin Mitchell continued to invest heavily in its business law services, leading to a clear increase in the calibre of work across areas such as corporate and commercial, banking and insolvency, and real estate. On the personal legal services side, heavy hitters include the firm’s head of international travel litigation Clive Garner.

Mills & Reeve LLP’s strategic move to expand beyond its traditional strengths in education and health sector related work manifested itself in a number of significant hires in areas such as banking, and corporate and commercial. Jaguar Land Rover is now a client, exemplifying the firm’s progress.

Shakespeare Martineau LLP has undergone a year of stabilisation following the turbulence created by its 2015 merger. Despite some departures in areas including real estate, the new entity is of a size to challenge the existing hierarchy and is particularly strong in the private client sphere.

Shoosmiths LLP’s effort to improve its national showing appears on track, with the firm’s Birmingham office serving its fair share of FTSE 250 clients, including Marston’s and Thomas Cook Group. The firm continues to advance in areas such as construction and residential development.

Squire Patton Boggs’ appetite for mergers showed no sign of abating, with the firm acquiring San Francisco-based Carroll, Burdick & McDonough. Its blue-chip automotive client base highlights the firm’s sector strengths in manufacturing and transport.

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