The Legal 500

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MURRAY HOUSE, MURRAY STREET, BELFAST, BT1 6DN, NORTHERN IRELAND
Tel:
Work 028 9024 4951
Fax:
Fax 028 9024 5768
DX:
403 NR-BELFAST
Email:
Web:
www.carson-mcdowell.com

Northern Ireland

Dispute resolution
Dispute resolution - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell attracts praise for its ‘professional knowledge and commercial awareness’, as well as for its ability to deliver ‘straightforward, focused advice’. The team’s wide-ranging expertise covers insurance, healthcare, construction, media and administrative disputes. In a key matter, the ‘approachable and understandingDeclan Magee represented the Northern Ireland Local Government in a dispute concerning the application of the Pension Scheme Rules to the client’s occupational scheme; the matter reached the UK Supreme Court, which found in favour of the appellant. Magee also acted for Belfast International Airport in a dispute with Aer Lingus alleging that the airline had breached the terms of a 10-year agreement to operate out of the airport. Other clients include Northern Ireland coach manufacturer, Wrightbus; road supplier, FP McCann; and Dalradian Water. McGee jointly heads the practice with healthcare expert Roger McMillan.

Leading individuals

Declan Magee - Carson McDowell

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Northern Ireland: Corporate and commercial

Corporate and M&A
Corporate and M&A - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Clients rate the corporate team at Carson McDowell for its ‘outstanding service’ and for its ‘skilful combination of gravitas, excellent knowledge and business acumen, and value for money’. The group, whose expertise spans a broad range of sectors including technology, energy and agri-food, has been particularly active advising on private equity-related investments into the country; Gerard Armstrong led the advice to River Ridge Holdings on a £10m investment by the Business Growth Fund. In another standout deal, the firm assisted Chain Reaction Cycles with its merger with Wiggle, which involved significant competition issues. Diary producer Fane Valley and News Corp UK & Ireland are also clients. The team is jointly headed by Neasa Quigley, who is noted for her ‘very strong knowledge, flexibility and availability’ and for her track record in energy transactions; and Richard Gray, who is ‘authoritative, patient and not fazed by complexity’.

Leading individuals

Michael Johnston - Carson McDowell

Neasa Quigley - Carson McDowell

Richard Gray - Carson McDowell

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Northern Ireland: Finance

Banking and finance
Banking and finance - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell’s team, which is ‘quick to respond and reliable’, acts for lenders and borrowers on a range of financings and securitisation transactions spanning the real estate, renewable energy and infrastructure sectors. Housing is a particular growth area; highlights included acting for Bank of Ireland in a £65m facility to the Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing Association to provide 2,800 new homes across the region. In an illustration of its refinancing capability, the team acted for Belfast International Airport on the refinancing of its £30m banking facilities with the AIB Group. Other highlights included advising NTR on the financing of wind farm projects, and acting for a consortium of investment funds on the acquisition of mortgage loans and security and the subsequent sale of GE Money’s residual mortgage book in the UK. Recent team changes include the recruitment of Emma Copeland, who joined from John McKee Solicitors in August 2016; and the retirement of Tom Adair in April 2016. Sinead McGrath heads the practice, which includes associates Graeme McKee and Naomi Gaston.

Leading individuals

Sinead McGrath - Carson McDowell

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Insolvency and corporate recovery
Insolvency and corporate recovery - ranked: tier 3

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell’s ‘efficient and professional’ team acts for a broad range of clients including accountancy firms (including longstanding client Grant Thornton), lenders (both traditional and alternative) and distressed companies. 2016 saw the firm act on a number high-profile administrations across the manufacturing, hotel and finance sectors. Key work included advising a working capital funder as qualifying floating charge holder, on administration proceedings brought against a Northern Ireland-registered corporate borrower. Other clients include BDO Northern Ireland and First Trust Bank. Sinead McGrath leads the team, which includes Darren Toombs, who is best known for his debt recovery expertise, and associate Graeme McKee, who is recommended for his experience in distressed property sales.

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Northern Ireland: Human resources

Employment
Employment - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell’s ‘quality of advice and turnaround times are excellent’. The team handles a broad range of matters, from discrimination and equality claims, to advisory and regulatory work, for a client base that includes a number of Northern Ireland’s leading companies as well as international companies from a range of sectors, including finance, technology and logistics. The Royal Mail Group is a longstanding client, which the firm successfully defended in a number of claims concerning unfair dismissal, breach of contract and harassment. In another key highlight, the firm acted for Chain Reaction Cycles on the employment structuring issues arising from its merger with Bridgepoint-owned Wiggle, which involved a large-scale redundancy process. Practice head Orlagh O’Neill is highly regarded for her litigation expertise and ‘possesses real gravitas; she has great knowledge, an ability to listen and a willingness to go the extra mile’. Rachel Penny is ‘highly regarded for her knowledge and responsiveness’ and is best known for her work in TUPE matters, redundancies and reorganisations. Associate Sarah Cochrane is well versed in corporate employment matters and restructuring.

Leading individuals

Orlagh O’Neill - Carson McDowell

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Northern Ireland: Insurance

Personal injury and clinical negligence: defendant
Personal injury and clinical negligence: defendant - ranked: tier 2

Carson McDowell

According to some, Carson McDowell’s personal injury and healthcare teams provide ‘the highest level of service’. The practice is well versed in industrial disease, catastrophic motor accidents and employer and public liability cases, as well as handling a range of healthcare claims. On the personal injury side the firm represents companies in catastrophic injury and related criminal investigations; recent clients include well-known supermarket chains, transport operators and retail companies. Claire Harmer heads the practice and is an expert in industrial disease and inquests. Associate Catherine Carton focuses on defending clients in personal injury litigation, including motor claims and industrial disease, and associate solicitor Niall Skelton primarily represents the Motor Insurance Bureau. On the healthcare side partners Clare Bates and Jacqueline McAleese are well versed in defending general practitioners and clinicians in a range of claims and regularly act for the Medical Protection society. Roger McMillan heads the healthcare team.

Leading individuals

Roger McMillan - Carson McDowell

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Northern Ireland: Private client

Personal tax, trusts and probate
Personal tax, trusts and probate - ranked: tier 2

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell’s private client team acts on high-value estate planning for high-net-wealth clients, often in the multimillion-pound range. It has an extensive track record acting for trustees in a number of high-profile trust administrations. The firm is also able to leverage its corporate client base to handle the personal tax matters for high-net-wealth and ultra-high-net-wealth individuals associated with those companies. In addition to providing non-contentious tax advice, the firm also handles contentious estate matters, often concerning financial provision claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) (NI) Order 1979. Neil Bleakley leads the practice, which includes Fiona Wallace.

Leading individuals

Neil Bleakley - Carson McDowell

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Northern Ireland: Projects, energy and natural resources

Energy
Energy - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell continued to operate at the forefront of developments in the energy market, handling a range of energy-related matters for a number of Northern Ireland’s leading energy players and spanning gas, renewable and electricity. Key clients include NTR, SSE and Phoenix Gas. In an illustration of the strength-in-depth of its renewable energy expertise, the team acted for Connective Energy on the £23m financing of an anaerobic digestion plant, which involved a £9.3m loan provided by InvestNI; assisted NTR on the financing of the Ora More and Altaveeden windfarms; and advising Lightsource Renewable Energy on the planning and regulatory aspects of Northern Ireland’s first utility-scale solar development connected to Belfast International Airport. On the traditional energy front the practice advised SONI, Northern Ireland’s electricity transmission system operator, on a planning application for a major project consisting of 100 new electricity pylons and a new substation connecting the electricity grids of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In addition to handling the development aspects of energy projects, the firm also has a prominent track record advising on transactional energy matters; 2016 highlights included assisting Belfast Power with a multimillion-pound equity investment by Crescent Capital, and acted for Vinci Energies on its acquisition of Powell UK Engineering. M&A and financing expert Neasa Quigley leads the team, which includes Gary McGhee, who is recommended for his energy planning expertise, and Dawson McConkey, who has significant experience handling the real estate aspects of renewable energy projects.

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Project finance and PFI
Project finance and PFI - ranked: tier 2

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell’s team is particularly well known for representing contractors; on the PPP front the team advised FMP Joint Venture as the contractor for the Dumfries and Galloway Council Smarter School project. The firm also advised concessionaire, Amey Roads, on a major road scheme in Northern Ireland worth £250m. On the finance side Neasa Quigley led the advice to NTR on the $45.7m financing of the Ora More and Altaveedan windfarms by Ulster Bank Ireland. Gerard Armstrong heads the team and is particularly well known for his PPP/PFI expertise.

Leading individuals

Gerard Armstrong - Carson McDowell

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Northern Ireland: Real estate

Commercial property
Commercial property - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell fields a team of ‘top performers’ that acts primarily for developers and retailers in high-value acquisitions and development projects. Emma Cooper is advising The Belfast Harbour Commissioners, a key client of the firm, on the site assembly, development and letting of the £250m City Quays development within Belfast Harbour, consisting of office, hotel and residential buildings. Property developer British Land is another key client, which practice head Rosemary Carson regularly advises on acquisitions and disposals. On the retail and landlord and tenant side, the team acts for Tesco, Greggs and JD Wetherspoons on high-value lettings and disposals, including JD Wetherspoons’ sale of a chain of Northern Irish pubs. Other highlights included advising McAleer & Rushe Group on its £72m sale of land to Queen’s University Belfast as well as securing the contract for the construction of student accommodation in Belfast.

Leading individuals

Jeremy Hill - Carson McDowell

Rosemary Carson - Carson McDowell

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Construction
Construction - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Well versed in contentious and non-contentious matters, Carson McDowell’s construction team primarily acts for Northern Ireland-based contractors and has extensive experience on a range of projects, although education, housing, energy, hotel and port projects have been especially active in 2016. The firm has been assisting the Belfast Harbour Commissioners on the City Quays project, most recently acting on a major delay dispute for the City Quays Hotel as well as handling the construction of the third phase of the project. Other key mandates included advising McAleer & Rushe on the development of the 240-room Maldron Hotel in central Belfast, which is a £17m project. Contentious work continues to be an important work stream; practice head Stuart Murphy and Gavin Kerr represented John Graham Construction before the Court of Appeal in a £1m dispute over the construction of a project at Sheffield University. Other clients include Graham Asset Management and Grand Opera House.

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Planning and environment
Planning and environment - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell’s highly regarded planning team has been particularly active in the infrastructure and energy sectors, handling planning judicial reviews and obtaining regulatory approval on road constructions, exploratory drilling and electricity pylon applications, amongst other projects. Highlights for 2016 included acting for Lagan Group in a £100m appeal against an enforcement notice in relation to the extraction of sand from Lough Neagh; the team has also been advising on a related judicial review instigated by Friends of the Earth. On the non-contentious side the team advised the Port of Belfast on a planning application for a £250m mixed-use development, which will include housing, retail, car parks, hotels and offices. Gary McGhee leads the department and is highly regarded. Associate Grant McBurney is another key figure.

Leading individuals

Gary McGhee - Carson McDowell

Next generation lawyers

Grant McBurney - Carson McDowell

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Northern Ireland: TMT (technology, media and telecoms)

IT and telecoms
IT and telecoms - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell is ‘a very safe pair of hands’ that is considered to be ‘among the top performers in Northern Ireland’. The team handles regulatory matters, transactions and disputes for a client base ranging from technology companies and telecommunications providers to public-sector bodies. 2016 highlights included acting for Northern Ireland Electricity Networks on a contract for the provision of ICT managed services, and advising US-based technology company Xilinx on a software development agreement to be used with freelance coders in England. Dawn McKnight leads the team and has a strong reputation for its tech-sector expertise. Associate Peter Guzhar is rated for his ‘fine legal brain, excellent client-management skills and tactical approach’.

Next generation lawyers

Peter Guzhar - Carson McDowell

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Intellectual property
Intellectual property - ranked: tier 1

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell’s IP team advises on a variety of matters, from IP in the context of mergers and acquisitions, to software protection, ownership management and licensing rights. Clients range from IT and technology companies to retailers and infrastructure providers. A key client is US technology company Xilinx, which the team is advising on master service agreements and software development agreements related to their activities in Northern Ireland. Other highlights included acting for a global retailer in trade mark litigation involving interim injunction applications. The firm also acts for Northern Ireland Electricity Networks, software company Graphical Data, and a number of IT consultancy firms. Dawn McKnight leads the team, which includes consultant Eileen Moughan.

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