Corporate and commercial: Cambridge in East Anglia

Birketts LLP

Birketts LLP has a three-partner team in Cambridge that works as part of a cross-office practice across 50 lawyers East Anglia and in Essex. The firm has specialist skills in data protection, public sector procurement, franchising, intellectual property, share options and tax, as well as an extensive roster of corporate and M&A transactions. As well as local and national work, the practice led by James Allen handles an increasing volume of cross-border advisory and transactional matters. Quentin Golder, who focuses on early-stage funding and venture capital matters, M&A partner Adrian Seagers and rising star associate Nick Burt are recommended.

Practice head(s):

James Allen

Testimonials

Birketts really get to know your business and products, rather than just showing a token interest in what you do.

The quality of work and service is exceptional. Birketts are incredibly reliable and always deliver what they commit to. Working with Kitty Rosser has been an absolute pleasure. The project we worked on was very complex and outside of our skillsets and experience, but Kitty made it a breeze!

Key clients

SDI Group plc

PSI International Holdings Ltd

Time GB Group Ltd

Vision Group (Holdings) Limited

The Little Norwich Shoe Company Limited

UltraSoc Technology Limited

NW Brown Group Limited

Professional Music Technology Limited

Chestnut Inns Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised PSI International Holdings Ltd on the acquisition of Cubiks Group Limited involving multiple subsidiaries across 13 different jurisdictions.
  • Advised AIM-listed SDI Group plc on three acquisitions in 2019, including the acquisition of Chell Instruments Limited.
  • Advised in relation to a number of residential park home businesses and dealing with the funding arrangements

Goodwin

Goodwin hired a team of corporate and venture capital lawyers from Taylor Wessing LLP in early 2020 to launch its Cambridge office. The office is a key hub for the firm's UK technology and life sciences practice, which acts for both corporates and investors. It already has a substantial client base in the local area, among which are innovative life sciences and most disruptive technology companies. Among the key hires are partners Adrian Rainey, David Mardle and Malcolm Bates, counsel Elizabeth Rhodes and associate Adam Thatcher. Clients describe the practice as 'one of the "go-to" teams in Cambridge for spin-outs and start-ups - responsive, pragmatic and commercial'.

Practice head(s):

Adrian Rainey

Testimonials

The Goodwin Cambridge team is excellent – responsive, pragmatic and commercial. They are one of the “go-to” teams in Cambridge for spin-outs and start-ups and their knowledge is commensurate with that. They take a practical approach to early stage deals but, due to their experience and the weight of the rest of the Goodwin practice, are adept at supporting spin-outs from seed stage all the way through to Series C and beyond.

Elizabeth Rhodes is an excellent lawyer with a practical and commercial approach at all times. I have always been very impressed with Elizabeth whether she has been acting for us or against us. A real talent.

David Mardle is a fantastic partner with invaluable knowledge and expertise. His knowledge of VC/investors in the market, especially in relation to US buyers and what they are expecting, is excellent. He is responsive and across all the details.

The team was focused on the transaction – pragmatic and always with no delays.

David Mardle and Liz Rhodes are both outstanding.

Work highlights

  • Acted for Oxford Biomedica plc in the extension of its commercial supply agreement by five years to manufacture Lentiviral Vectors.
  • Acted for Avacta Life Sciences Limited in an agreement with Daewoong Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd to establish a joint venture in South Korea, and to enter a collaboration and licence agreement for the joint venture to develop the next generation of cell and gene therapies targeting immune-mediated diseases.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP has a leading regional and national M&A practice, and many of its transactions also have an international element. Its recent work includes several IPOs, high-value matters for private equity investors, venture capital transactions and key deals in the technology, education and healthcare sectors. M&A and cross-border transaction specialist Tom Pickthorn and head of the technology and life sciences group Kevin Calder are the lead partners in Cambridge. Firm managing partner Claire Clarke has particular expertise in education work and formation of investment funds. Anthony McGurk is recommended for private equity, food and agribusiness, and life sciences matters. Up-and-coming partner Jonathan Greenwood is recommended for education M&A and mid-market corporate work.

Practice head(s):

Tom Pickthorn; Kevin Calder

Testimonials

‘Anthony McGurk is always available to discuss issues. They never need to be chased, always delivering ahead of the time agreed. Always gives good-rounded and balanced commercial, realistic and practical advice.’

‘Anthony McGurk is always ready to help and does so; very personable; and very gifted in his area of expertise.’

‘Available, pro-active and client-focused. Take pains to understand client situation and needs. Excellent manner in meetings with opposite party and their legal counsel.’

 

Key clients

BAE Systems plc

Bango plc

Business Growth Fund

IQ Capital

Midwich Group plc

PayPoint plc

Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd

The British Council

Wellcome Trust

Xaar plc

Work highlights

  • Acted for Strutt and Parker (Farms) Limited, one of East Anglia’s oldest and best known diversified farming businesses, in the sale of (1) the Company’s two anaerobic digestion subsidiaries, Euston Biogas Limited and S&P Biogas Limited, to Foresight Group and (2) the sale of the entire issued share capital of the Company to Robigus Limited.
  • Advised UK Research & Innovation on the purchase of a super computer for use by researchers and academics across the UK; this involved advice on the procurement and contracting process for the purchase of the computer, and also an associated services contract for the supplier to advise and support users of the machine.
  • Acted for Randall and Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd, the global program underwriting management and legacy specialist, to raise gross proceeds of approximately £100m through an oversubscribed placing of new ordinary shares to investors.

Taylor Vinters

Taylor Vinters has a 'strategic and proactive approach to its clients rather than the transactional approach many firms employ', according to one client. The firm acts for high potential IP-rich emerging companies, venture capital funds and serial acquirers on inbound and outbound national and international transactions. Innovation economy and venture capital partner Charles Fletcher leads a six-partner practice that works seamlessly between the Cambridge and London offices. Head of corporate and insolvency Adam Bradley focuses on M&A, early-stage investments and joint ventures. Sian Scanlon  has a strong focus on transactions in the technology and life sciences sectors. 'Methodical and logical' senior associate Nick Palmer focuses on private company and partnership transactions. Senior associate Sarah Ilic joined from Tees Law.

Practice head(s):

Charles Fletcher

Testimonials

Unlike some professional service firms the team at TV always have capacity to be able to take on work. If my need is urgent, they will find a way to address it almost immediately and if my need is not immediate they will be quite clear when they will start and finish and they are always punctual.

The corporate team is very clear about where its expertise ends and where its colleagues’ expertise starts and although they will offer an initial view on a topic – be it employment, property etc – they will connect me with another expert in the firm but stay in the loop to make sure this activity is progressed.

The corporate team will look for opportunities to make connections not only between their clients but other stakeholders in their network including international partners. This typifies TV’s strategic and proactive approach to their clients rather than the transactional approach many firms employ, partly as a consequence of their lack of capacity.

I first met Nick Palmer when we he was advising the buyers of a business I was involved with selling from within a large corporate. I was impressed with Nick’s methodical, logical and unemotional approach to the negotiations and subsequently hired him and the firm to support myself and a colleague through a MBO process. Whenever there is an issue that needs discussing, Nick will approach firstly from a legal perspective to make sure all possible angles are covered but will then temper those perspectives with a commercial reality based on his extensive experience. Since the MBO Nick has provided advice across a range of legal areas including contracts, employment and property and always takes care to consult with his colleagues or introduce them into the conversation where necessary.

Nick Palmer approaches negotiations in a calm and methodical manner. The sellers were quite lax in providing information through due diligence but Nick’s continued questioning ensured that all the key risk areas were eventually responded to satisfactorily. I look forward to working with Nick on the next deal.

All the team working on our case were exceptional in that they worked very well together as a team with excellent communication across all matters so we didn’t have to re-explain to different people. We felt we were in safe hands all along, even with having done the entire process remotely without meeting face-to-face until the signing. The team made the whole experience a very caring and personal one. They all obviously had our best interests at heart in all work they did. All the team maintained a level of calm in the somewhat emotional moments of the case and all were able to explain the complex legal matters in simple layman language for us. All the team were very appropriately skilled for our particular case requirements.

Charles Fletcher  was easily accessible and extremely knowledgeable. Nick Palmer’s calm command and extremely high skill level and experience made us feel very safe. His sense of humour in appropriate moments made the experience a fantastic one. We cannot commend Nick Palmer enough, as a skilled lawyer, but as a person as well. He worked very long tough hours to get this deal across the line, going above and beyond.

Scott Parmenter was very trustworthy and skilled in his areas. He worked very long hours to ensure we were kept continually informed.

James Boyle has excellent skills and experience and gives lawyers a good name in that he was able to explain very complex legal terms and processes in a way we understood! We can’t recommend James enough.

Well embedded in Cambridge and establishing in London and Oxford, the collegiate team and juniors are well trained. Good value for money.

They have worked hard at allowing flexibility and part-time working – unusual in a transactional team.

Taylor Vinters handled the acquisition of a joint venture by one of the original partner companies, which was exceptionally protracted and unnecessarily difficult and fractious, due to the paranoia and incompetence of senior counsel and management in that company. Throughout they behaved with considerable patience and persuasiveness as well as representing our interests efficiently and effectively, and ultimately achieved the outcome we, the clients, wanted. The clients jointly have considerable experience of similar acquisitions, and all expected negotiations to break down terminally. Therefore, we unanimously felt that the TV team had done an outstanding job.

The Taylor Vinters team was led by Sian Scanlon who conducted all the negotiations on our behalf and organised the team very effectively. She was supported by Tom Maguire, who also took the lead on negotiating licensing and support contracts, consequent to the acquisition. Sian is an excellent negotiator and also explicator of relevant legal issues, whilst Tom is unique in my experience in his ability to shorten and simplify legal agreements, and thus make them less ambiguous and more binding without undermining the essential conditions and protections we, as clients, sought.

Key clients

Sellers of Sapphire Systems Limited and its subsidiaries

James Cooper, founding shareholder of Land Survey Solutions Holdings Limited

Land Survey Solutions Limited

Clearstone Energy Limited

Maycast Holdings Limited

Betatype Group Limited

Sellers of Transversal Corporation Limited

Work highlights

  • Acted for the sellers of Sapphire Systems Limited, an industry-leading provider of specialist software applications, services and support, in the sale of the entire issued share capital of the company and equity investment by Horizon Capital LLP.
  • Advising the founding shareholder on the sale of Land Survey Solutions Holdings Limited to Survey Topco Limited (a private equity-backed MBO vehicle); the consideration was a mixture of cash, roll over shares in Survey Topco Limited and sweet equity by way of EMI options in Survey Topco Limited.
  • Advising Clearstone on the sale of its interests in three gas power station sites across the UK, having previously advised them on the sale of similar sites to developers.

BDB Pitmans

'All team members are technically knowledgeable, proactive and personable,' according to one client of BDB PitmansJames Stephen and Duncan Walker are the lead partners and they handle substantial transactions, frequently involving complex and novel issues, for a diverse portfolio of clients in East Anglia and further afield. Their sector experience includes the full spectrum of technology companies in East Anglia, particularly around Cambridge, with many clients based in the city's science and technology parks and innovation centres. They range from entrepreneurs and SMEs to larger corporates with in-house legal teams.

Practice head(s):

James Stephen; Duncan Walker

Testimonials

The partner is the key contact but delegates parcels of work to his associates where appropriate so that hourly fees are largely based on the degree of complexity for each part of any project. All team members are technically knowledgeable, proactive and personable.

When involved in negotiations on our behalf with third-party lawyers, the partner maintains an appropriate balance between representing our interests both politely and with conviction, whilst minimising potential conflict over key negotiation points which are very important to ourselves and the third-party client. His associates are also exceptional people who provide great service, particularly in co-ordinating the significant majority of a Share Purchase Agreement acting for the sellers.

BDB Pitmans were recommended to me to assist with the one-off contract negotiations for the sale of my business. What impressed me was their “can-do” attitude and their appreciation of my desire to keep the formal legal process as simple and straightforward as possible. This enabled us to deal with the pedantic approach adopted by the other side and come to an agreed resolution. Most helpful was the support and reassurance provided by BDB Pitmans, giving me the confidence to proceed. Previous experiences with solicitors had left me with a jaundiced view of their capabilities but they restored my faith.

My principal contact was James Stephen and also his assistant, Ross Fletcher. James was particularly helpful and excellent at cutting through the legal jargon to explain the contract details and the legal process, and in dealing with the other side’s legal representative. I felt able to have full confidence in James and of his understanding of my concerns and wishes. An excellent person to have on my side.

Key clients

Port of Felixstowe Limited

Owlstone Medical Limited

Hewitsons

Clients praise the 'excellent client service, responsiveness, appreciation for business considerations and cost-effectiveness', of the team at Hewitsons. 'The team finds an excellent balance between paying good attention to detail while keeping a sensible commercial view of any points at issue', remarks another. Corporate partner James Lawrence, technology specialist Andrew Priest and business services head Emma Shipp lead the five-partner practice, which handles a broad range of corporate work for the larger corporations and businesses including acquisitions, disposals, reorganisations and financing. It has particular expertise in the technology, life sciences, property development and agribusiness sectors. Up-and-coming partner Laurence Evans is also recommended.

Other key lawyers:

Laurence Evans

Testimonials

Excellent client service, responsiveness, appreciation for business considerations and cost-effectiveness, billing transparency, and industry knowledge/expertise.

The team finds an excellent balance between paying good attention to detail while keeping a sensible commercial view of any points at issue.

Broad legal knowledge and experience makes them helpful and responsive on a range of subjects raised. Partner James Lawrence and senior solicitor Charlotte Bull have worked as an excellent team for us.

We have been working closely with Hewitsons for many years. Consequently they have acquired an in-depth knowledge, not only of our businesses in the UK, but also about how we prefer to work with external counsel. In combination with second-to-none legal and commercial capabilities this has been a winning formula.

I’n the past year, I’ve been working closely with both Mark Elmslie and Andrew Priest on a rather sensitive matter. They both stand out as truly professional advisors. In addition, they are both more than capable of strategic thinking just as they have the ability to keep calm and focused in tense situations. As a client, you feel comfortable to succeed knowing that they are on your team.

Hewitsons has an expert team of different, complementary individuals. Their style tends to be interactive with a phase of information and context gathering before they make specific recommendations. I think that is a great way to understand the client’s needs and customise the solution rather than just roll out standard template documents – which is what some legal firms seem to do. Hewitsons’ billing is also very visible and easy to review and they represent superb value for money.

Bill Thatcher is gentle in nature but shrewd. He puts the client at ease and uses his excellent intellect and communication skills to identify the client’s needs and their exact legal solution. He also writes legal documents in clear, legal language which is easy to understand by the client and third parties. Bill is always on time and is appreciated for his professionalism and clear legal contracts.

We have always received very practical and relevant advice. In the past, we have often dealt with firms who give you the absolute legal position without taking into account the commercial reality of the situation. We find Hewitsons to have a great balance between detailing the legal position and working with us to find a commercially suitable solution.

Laurence Evans has supported us on various corporate matters including MBOs, partial share disposals and share restructures. We have always found him very helpful, informed and supportive.

Andrew Priest provides excellent contract advice which is key to our business where we work with some very high-profile, large organisations, which can be a struggle as an SME.

Their ability to adopt a commercial stance is appreciated and they aren’t afraid to suggest difficult options to find a way through the negotiations. The team has a practical, hands-on approach.

Laurence Evans is always prepared to go the extra mile to get the job done and has excellent availability.

Key clients

Quartix Holdings Plc

KisanHub (UK and India)

VKR Group (owner of Velux brand with HQ in Denmark)

Konsolidator Group (HQ in Denmark)

Nuformix Plc

Hill Residential Limited

Spirol Group, Inc. (HQ in USA)

Silverwell Technology Limited

Homes England

Bf1 Systems Limited

Geostructural Solutions Limited

Lesko Group

Proteinlogic Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised shareholders and company BF1 Systems Limited on a £2.4m investment by BGF (the Business Growth Fund).
  • Advised agri-tech innovator KisanHub on its £3.4m Series A fundraising led by Russian deep tech VC fund, Sistema.
  • Acted for the shareholders of Stormport Professional Services Limited in the sale of shares to Ipsum Group Limited backed by private equity fund Aliter Capital.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

The corporate practice at Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is led from Guildford and London, but the Cambridge office plays a key role in the firm's national offering. Helen Drayton handles all aspects of company law, including mergers and acquisitions, and has a particular focus on MBOs and acquisitions for owner-managed businesses.

Practice head(s):

Helen Drayton

Testimonials

A very responsive and personal service, with excellent communication skills.

The service received was excellent, during three transactions handled over the past 18 months. Helen Drayton in particular was superb throughout all dealings.

Key clients

Cambridge Innovation Capital

Vindis Group

Wren Therapeutics

Oppilan Pharma

Topia Limited

Iliffe Media Publishing

Blighter Surveillance Systems

Friar’s Pride

Cambridge Commodities

Kinphire/ eReceipts

Work highlights

  • Acted for Jacobs Engineering, a large US technical professional services firm, which acquired a 50% stake in Simetrica.
  • Acted for Topia, a Silicon Valley tech business that has links to the Cambridge community and is still structured through a UK entity, in its recent series D fundraising round and equity arrangements.
  • Acting for Oppilan, a clinical stage drug discovery company, in respect of its equity arrangements and investments.

Ashtons Legal

The four-partner corporate practice at Ashtons Legal is led from Ipswich by Geoff Hazlewood and although none of the partners are in Cambridge full-time, the office is key to the firm's service offering. The firm is active in the local marketplace in its key sectors, and it handles substantial Cambridge-based transactions involving veterinary practices, franchising, technology, care homes and regional banks.

Practice head(s):

Geoff Hazlewood

Testimonials

‘A close team who work very well together, play to individual strengths but use excellent communication to focus on a positive outcome for their client with a strong and sensible commercial approach, Strong leadership through Geoff Hazlewood is at the forefront, but with each individual able to work independently as required and with the trust and autonomy to crack on and help their clients.’

‘Geoff Hazlewood is an excellent lawyer, but also an excellent leader. His advice is always practical and commercial and helpful to the client and deals get done quicker and with lower costs as a result. Equally, he is always on the ball when it comes to communicating risks and the potential ramifications to allow clients to make informed decisions about any action that may be required.’

Key clients

The Payroll Service Company

Cosworth Group

Medical Management Systems

Thyngs

TaxAssist Group

Signs Express

Work highlights

  • Acting for the borrower in a £25m loan and credit facility from the University of Cambridge, to be used to design and build a new headquarters partially leased back to the University.
  • Acting for the seller of Vaiopak, an award-winning food and beverage packaging manufacturing business, in their sale to Zeus, the Irish conglomerate, as one of a series of acquisitions by Zeus worth around €15m.
  • Acting for the owners of The Payroll Service Company Limited on their sale of the entire issued share capital of the company to Access UK Ltd, as part of the continued acquisition strategy by Access across the software solutions for mid-sized organisations sector.

Dixon Phillips

Dixon Phillips is a small firm focused purely on corporate, commercial and property law. For the last 11 years it has grown its SME client base in the region, focusing on businesses with turnover of up to £25m, through its commitment to strong client relationships. The practice led by Oliver Phillips joins the ranking this year and is praised for its 'extremely personalised service with easy contact to partners' and its 'willingness to be agile, responsive and proportionate to the level of risks'. 'It would be great if every firm of solicitors was as responsive and caring,' remarks one client.

Practice head(s):

Oliver Phillips

Testimonials

An extremely personalised service with easy contact to partners. A willingness to be agile, responsive and proportionate to the level of risks. An overriding feeling that the practice truly understands your needs and scales the response and work rate to meet your requirements. A useful ability to tap into expert commercial and property solicitors in one practice. It would be great if every firm of solicitors was as responsive and caring as Dixon Phillips.

Oliver Phillips is exceptional because you feel he is completely on your side and working fully with your interests at heart. This is exemplified by his ability and willingness to tailor contracts to the specific needs of the client and situation. In some cases, being extremely meticulous on a high-risk area whilst simultaneously minimising or eliminating other clauses that will only cause increased costs or delay. Oliver is a pleasure to work with. Matthew Dempsey is a detail-orientated, thorough, diligent, hardworking and likeable member of the team that you are glad is on your side. Both worked beyond midnight on a number of occasions to ensure we hit various deadlines.

Key clients

Asahi Glassplant UK Limited

Kingswood Advisory Limited

MAP Life Sciences

Ravenwood Packaging Limited

dB Broadcast Ltd

Aurora Commerce Limited

STV International Limited

Clarke Capital Holdings Limited

Specflue Limited

COEL Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Asahi Glassplant UK Limited on its purchase of Syrris Limited and Glass Solutions Limited from Blacktrace Holdings Limited.
  • Advised the shareholders of Giulio Fashion Ltd on the sale of the company to JD Sports Fashion plc.
  • Advised COEL Limited on the demerger of its property business.

Greenwoods GRM

At Greenwoods GRM, practice head David Woods is based mainly in Peterborough but works across both of the firm's Cambridgeshire offices. He has more than 20 years' experience in the region and brings to bear the firm's extensive expertise in the technology, business services and manufacturing sectors. Partner Alastair Gunn and associate Claire Banks, who are also based in Peterborough, also handle a significant flow of work through the Cambridge office. Gunn has notable expertise in share, trade and asset disposals, MBOs, MBIs and acquisitions.

Practice head(s):

David Woods

Other key lawyers:

Alastair Gunn; Claire Banks

Howes Percival LLP

Howes Percival LLP continues to build the profile of its Cambridge office, with corporate and commercial work a growing feature of its work. Practice head Oliver Pritchard, who works between the Norwich and Cambridge offices and joined in 2020 from Browne Jacobson LLP, brought with him a long track record in the health sector. The firm also hired director Brigitta Naunton in Cambridge from Thomson Webb & Corfield LLP to handle private company M&A, equity investments, corporate reorganisations, joint venture and shareholder arrangements. Nathan Horton, who previously led the practice, left the firm to pursue a career outside the law.

Practice head(s):

Oliver Pritchard

Other key lawyers:

Brigitta Naunton

Key clients

Ford Retail Limited

Hughes Electrical Group

Norse Care Limited

Craft Leisure Limited

Lind Triumph Limited

O’Callaghan Hotels Group

Tufts Development Limited

Lind Triumph Limited

Bossick Hotels Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised O’Callaghan Hotels Group on the sale of The Tamburlaine Hotel in Cambridge to two corporate purchasers.