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



Index of tables

  1. Property litigation
  2. Hall of Fame
  3. Leading individuals
  4. Next generation lawyers

Who Represents Who

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Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP is ‘technically capable with good sector knowledge’ and handles a full range of High Court cases, arbitrations and expert determinations for clients such as Brent Cross (Hammerson and Standard Life) and United Utilities Water. Lisa Barge, who wins praise for her ‘commercial awareness, subject knowledge and excellent client care’, is acting on behalf of PricewaterhouseCoopers as administrators for BUK Realisations in relation to the forfeiture of five leases; Barge is also assisting principal associate Arren Thornton with the Water Central Rating List appeal of United Utilities entire clean water network. Another name to note is David Feist, who advises extensively on retail property asset management, and is acting for Birmingham City Council on over 50 claims for possession in relation to the development of a new wholesale market site. Feist also has a strong energy sector focus and is acting for National Grid Electricity Transmission in securing access to a golf course in order to undertake works as part of a large-scale line refurbishment. National head of real estate litigation Paul Moorcroft leads the team and specialises in disputes which arise primarily from either commercial or residential property development, or from the landlord and tenant relationship. Both Barge and Feist are solicitor-advocates.

Gowling WLG’s wide-ranging client base takes in housebuilders, developers, major telecoms operators, housing associations, retailers and public bodies. Paul Kent focuses on residential development issues and is defending Persimmon Homes against an injunction brought by Wychavon District Council to halt development at Droitwich Spa. Kent is also acting for TfL against Southwark and the City of London in an appeal concerning the vertical and horizontal extent of the interests in the roads which were transferred to TfL on its establishment in 2000. Solicitor advocate Martin Thomas heads the team and splits his time between Birmingham and London; Thomas’ specialisms include land agreements, landlord and tenant (especially development and insolvency related disputes), business rates and telecoms; in one example of work, he is advising new client Muse/ISIS Waterside on the strategy for the handling of potential claims from third parties arising from serious defects in the construction of residential apartment blocks. In the commercial property space, Carole Peet, who leads the Birmingham offering, is acting for Midcounties Co-operative in proceedings to recover possession of a vacant garage and car showroom on the Iffley Road, Oxford from squatters.

Pinsent Masons LLP’s team ‘deals with large commercial and development-based work, and is also able to provide related niche advice in right to light and vacant possession areas’. The practice is led by Alicia Foo, who wins praise for her ‘energetic and forceful approach to litigation, which she combines with a strong tactical nous’. Foo covers an impressive range of sectors and, as well as being active in the telecoms property sector for clients such as Arqiva, was also busy in the waste sphere, defending Veolia in arbitration relating to a waste lease. The team wins further plaudits for its work in the retail space, where one client notes it has ‘real understanding of the competitive environment retailers work in’. Other names to note are ‘enormously experienced’ senior associate Craig Downhill, who was busy on energy-related property work, including advising E.ON on the removal of live cabling installed by a well-known cable network operator; associate Sarah Campey (described as ‘tactical’) who handled a number of matters for public sector clients, including possession claims; and solicitor Ian Morgan, who is ‘careful in marshalling information and a devastating letter writer’.

Shoosmiths LLP is probably best known for its strength in the retail sector, where clients include Boots, Thomas Cook and Poundland. The team is led by national head of property litigation Nicholas Shepherd, who is a ‘good leader and delegator’. Shepherd specialises in handling dilapidations claims, disputed rent reviews and Land Registry rectification claims and the adjudication of other land registration issues, and in one recent matter has been advising Tingdene Parks on an application for adverse possession and/or rectification against the council in respect of a strip of land between Tingdene’s caravan park and the foreshore. Paul Knight leads the Birmingham team and, together with Kate McCall, who is noted for her expertise in the property insolvency arena, is acting for BDO (in its capacity as administrators and LPA receivers) in its pursuit of various injunctions against the former directors of an insolvent company to obtain possession of eight high-end properties in Kensington, Mayfair and Chelsea. In another example of work, Knight helped Central Midlands Estates and Central England Co-operative secure possession of two major redevelopment sites for their food business.

According to one client, Anthony Collins Solicitors LLPstands head and shoulders above most firms in the social housing sector’ and the firm is ‘among the most impressive for its expertise concerning all landlord-related litigation’. Helen Tucker, whose ‘robust approach to litigation gives her real gravitas in the sector’, advised on various possession claims for clients such as Bromford Housing Group and Fortis Living, while the ‘approachable’ Baljit Basra is representing a housing group in a claim for damages following alleged breaches of contractual repairing obligations. Hilary Harrison leads on commercial property work and is acting for Birmingham City Council on lease renewal proceedings relating to the redevelopment of the indoor market area at Birmingham city centre. Housing management specialists Jonathan Cox and senior associate Emma Hardman handle leasehold litigation in the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), and boosted their team with a number of junior hires.

Browne Jacobson LLP is ‘able to provide a tailor-made service to deal with all kinds of cases’. Names to note include Tim Rayner, who specialises in dilapidations and contested lease renewals, and Pamela Shepherd, who ‘keeps a cool head and can handle complex and hostile litigation with ease’. Shepherd focuses on landlord and tenant work, but also deals with overage claims and adverse possession claims acting for large developers. The practice’s varied client base takes in Walgreens Boots Alliance, London & Cambridge Properties and the Homes and Communities Agency. Nottingham-based Mark Aldrich leads the team.

Gateley Plc’s ‘very strong practice undertakes property litigation for a number of the major national and regional housebuilders and land developers’. Peter Davies, who is ‘an absolutely top-class litigator, who combines a wealth of technical knowledge and experience in the field with giving commercially realistic advice’, continued to serve a stable of housebuilders on disputes ranging from breaches of land agreements to professional negligence claims. Iain Davies, who heads the team with Peter Davies, specialises in commercial landlord and tenant disputes; Iain Davies’ caseload included representing Bakkavor Foods as under-tenant in an application for relief against forfeiture, following the insolvency of the head tenant, and advising MP Newlands on a lease renewal dispute with Cable and Wireless UK. Another name to note is senior associate Philip Scully, who is ‘very reliable and developing a strong reputation in the field’; Scully advised on its dilapidations liability in respect of a hangar demised to it.

Areas of expertise at Shakespeare Martineau LLP include dilapidation disputes, telecoms litigation, rent review arbitration, development agreement disputes and commercial lease disputes. The team is led by the well-regarded Martin Edwards, who has a strong education sector following and was also busy in the telecoms space, pursuing several repossession claims against various telecom operators. Other key players are Mark English, who handles contentious property management issues for major energy companies, and newly promoted associate partner James Fownes, whose client base takes in universities and housebuilders.

DWF’s practice is led by Michael Green, who has particular expertise in advising investor landlords and corporate occupiers in lease termination situations; recent examples include acting for Savills regarding the early termination of its lease of city centre offices in Nottingham, and advising Clearbell Capital on a forfeiture action against a tenant, based on breach of the alienation provisions in the lease. Another area of strength is development work, where the team advises clients such as Queensbury Real Estate on site clearance. Green also has experience in advising on professional negligence claims and is representing a property investor and developer in a claim arising from advice provided in respect of an agreement for lease. Senior associate Nerissa Hatcher handles property instructions for key portfolio client Westminster City Council.

According to one client, George Green LLPprovidess a first-rate service and would give any big city firm a run for its money’. The team continued to be busy on behalf of a range of retailers, property developers and landowners, and in one example of work defended Scrivens in a notice-to-vacate and dilapidation claim. Other significant matters in 2016 included eviction of travellers and adverse possession proceedings, and the team is also well known in the professional negligence space, where it acts for key client West Bromwich Building Society on claims against surveyors. In Wolverhampton, key players include department head James Coles, who is an ‘excellent strategic thinker with an adaptable mind’, and Susan Ford; in Cradley Heath, Neil Williams, Morgan Rees and James Field are the names to note.

Higgs & Sons’ ‘growing presence in the market’ reflects the fact that the team ‘has a strong practice acting for private individuals in dealing with neighbour disputes, boundary issues and possession claims, as well as very considerable expertise working with commercial property clients’. Retail specialist Paul Barker is ‘excellent for legal and commercial advice’, and has been active on a variety of mandates, including conditional break notice and lease renewal matters, as well as advising developer clients on site clearance and development/sale contract disputes. In one highlight, Barker is acting for TH Baker in resisting the attempted termination of its tenancy at retail premises in Stratford upon Avon. The ‘tenacious and straight-talking’ Nyree Applegarth also has a strong reputation, particularly for boundary disputes and party wall matters, and has been busy advising clients such as AF Blakemore and London and Cambridge Properties on contentious issues arising from lease renewals.

Squire Patton Boggs’ practice is now led from London by Alison Hardy, following the departures of Andrew Walker and Ben Walters to Harrison Clark Rickerbys and Wright Hassall LLP respectively. The team is probably best known in the retail space, where it handles the contentious aspects of property portfolio management for clients such as Cancer Research UK, Signet Group and The Royal British Legion. Senior associate Michelle Adams, who rejoined from Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP, focuses on landlord and tenants disputes and has a specialism in telecoms property work; Adams assisted Hardy with advice to Amaris Hospitality following defaults in rental payments by a commercial tenant at a retail unit in Farnham.

Wright Hassall LLP’s team ‘always provides a swift and knowledgeable response and gives expert advice and service at a fraction of London rates’. Practice head Dawn Reynolds specialises in landlord and tenant disputes and property management issues, and also has extensive experience in assisting clients in complex beneficial interest claims relating to property. In one example of work, Reynolds successfully acted for Central Waste Oil Collections in recovering possession of a property from a business tenant. On the residential side, Mary Rouse is ‘firm, tenacious and considered’; besides specialising in housing management issues for social landlords, Rouse also handles possession claims for Coventry Building Society. ‘Knowledgeable’ associate Leonie Salter is experienced in resolving disputes regarding the succession of Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies. Ben Walters moved to Sherrards Solicitors LLP.

At Emms Gilmore Liberson, the ‘service is highly professional, with excellent response times’, and the practice’s varied client base takes in government departments, national utilities, blue-chip companies, and landed estates. Name partner Martyn Liberson has ‘a wealth of experience’ and is particularly strong in dilapidation claims; in 2016, his case load included acting for Telereal Trillium against a tenant in a significant rent recovery action. Other names to note are director Richard Cooper, who has a ‘hands-on, practical approach, with good people skills’, and regularly handles professional negligence claims arising from property transactions; and associate Anna Albini, who is ‘really proactive with all of the complexities surrounding wholesale exits from large leasehold buildings, whether they be breaks or natural expiries’. The team has expertise in disputes arising from a full range of real estate products, including development and investment sites, commercial estates, offices, warehousing, retail and residential.

Lodders Solicitors LLP’s team is led by Jane Senior, whose contentious expertise takes in litigation, arbitration, Land Registry hearings and mediations. Senior continued to be highly active on behalf of clients such as Spitfire Properties and IM Properties in a range of matters, including tenant insolvency, dilapidations and boundary disputes. Consultant Michael Orlik specialises in the law of highways and rights of way, and he and Senior successfully acted in the Court of Appeal for Sustainable Totnes Action Group in a legal challenge against a Road Traffic Regulation Order implemented by Devon County Council. Other names to note are Michael Wakeling and associate Amrit Samra, with the latter specialising in landlord and tenant disputes. Samra’s recent caseload included securing an order for possession for The King Henry VIII Endowed Trust to evict travellers from its site at Buntsford Park Road in Bromsgrove.

Mills & Reeve LLP’s ‘very responsive and knowledgeable’ team is probably best known for its expertise in the healthcare and education sectors, where it advises clients such as NHS England and Coventry University. Principal associate Christopher Bartley and senior associate Henry Mahalski ‘both provide sound advice and communicate this in a very clear and straightforward way, whether dealing with residential clients or large commercial developers’. In 2016, highlights included helping NHS Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group to secure clinical services in the Dudley area following forfeiture of a GP surgery lease by a landlord, and assisting an education sector client with the release of right to light to allow a third-party developer to develop adjacent land, including mutual release facilitating future development of the land. The practice is led from Norwich by Richard Hanson.

The Wilkes Partnership acts for a broad range of clients, including homeowners, developers and owner-managed businesses. Areas of expertise include disputes relating to ownership or rights over land (both of a commercial and residential nature), contractual disputes relating to land, landlord and tenant disputes, and professional negligence claims, primarily against solicitors in relation to property transactions or against surveyors regarding surveys and valuations. Key contacts are managing partner Mark Abrol, Carl Csukas and senior associate Victoria Khandker.

Trowers & Hamlins LLP developed its offering with the hire of David Marsden from Charles Russell Speechlys LLP, who now heads the practice. Besides handling a number of significant cases in the Court of Appeal and the High Court, Marsden also represented a claimant in a breach of contract and misrepresentation claim concerning the sale of Walton Castle in Clevedon; and in another example of work, Marsden assisted two claimants seeking a declaration of rights over land adjacent to a field they owned. The team’s work takes in portfolio management, right-to-light issues, development-related advice, and disputes work for housebuilders, registered providers and commercial property developers.

Beswicks Legal is a ‘go-to firm for property litigation’, and the team handles contentious commercial and residential landlord and tenant matters, including lease renewal, lease termination, and dilapidation claims. Head of practice Stephen Taylor and newly promoted partner Gareth Wilkinson are particularly strong on cohabitation claims arising from the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. In one high-profile property ownership case, the team successfully defended a proprietary estoppel claim in the High Court relating to the beneficial ownership of several substantial landholdings with an aggregate value of almost £5m. Taylor also has expertise in freehold restrictive covenant matters. Clients of the practice include Stoke-on-Trent College, Swansway Garage Group and George Birchall.

FBC Manby Bowdler LLP’s practice focuses on commercial property disputes for corporates and, in 2016, was active in a broad range of matters, including the recovery of possession from unlawful occupiers and squatters, and disputes arising from the Party Wall Act. The team also regularly acts for institutional lenders and local landed estates in disputes arising from agricultural land. Shrewsbury-based Brian Aikman, who heads the team, and Wolverhampton-based Gareth Ruddock are the main contacts.

At Knights Professional Services Limited, Richard Jones has expertise in property ownership disputes, rights of way issues, business lease renewals and commercial and residential possession claims. Examples of the team’s work include defending an adverse possession claim on behalf of a non-profit making club, and handling contentious property matters for Hanson UK.

For one client, mfg Solicitors LLPprobably has the best property litigation practice in Worcestershire’, and the team’s expertise spans all areas of land and property, including disputes involving landlords and tenants, forfeiture, contentious tenancy renewals, dilapidation claims, and breach of covenants claims. Bromsgrove-based head of practice Harjie Singh Bindra, who is ‘blessed with very sound judgement about the merits of his clients’ case’, undertakes a broad caseload for residential and commercial landowners, including property-related litigation involving allegations of fraud. In Worcester, the ‘tenacious and robustKirsten Bridgewater has a niche practice in rural disputes and was busy on a number of co-ownership disputes relating to farmland.

At Sydney Mitchell LLP, senior solicitor Sundeep Bilkhu is a ‘good driving force’ for cases and continued to be particularly active in landlord and tenant issues for lenders and receivers: Bilkhu represented Hertford Solutions in enforcing a possession order against a tenant in occupation, and also acted for a receiver in obtaining vacant possession of a property following the borrower’s default of a legal charge. In other highlights, the team is defending Property Link Midlands in a claim alleging breach of a landlord repair covenant in a lease. Kamal Majevadia heads the practice.

At Thursfields Solicitors, Mark Pittaway and Tim Lawrence advise on landlord and tenant and boundary disputes, and in one example of work advised a tenant on a claim against an adjoining tenant arising from a fire that caused the destruction of part of the claimant tenant’s military vehicle collection. Lawrence also deals with security over land and is representing a defendant in a dispute relating to the use of a mortgage over a property to secure an alleged loan. The team was enhanced by the hire of solicitor Naveed Ansari, who joined the firm from an in-house role. Ansari specialises in service charge and rent disputes.

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Legal Developments in West Midlands for Property litigation

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

    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.

    - Falcon Chambers

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