Commercial litigation: Cambridge in East Anglia

Birketts LLP

The Cambridge office of Birketts LLP plays a key role in the firm-wide litigation practice, which handles high-profile cases in sectors as diverse as shipping, education, defence and logistics. Its work encompasses public law, judicial reviews and procurement law, as well as high-value contract disputes. The firm is known for 'excellent value for money and good client service'. Lead partner Laurence Weeks handles commercial and contract disputes, negligence claims, insolvency, financial services cases and fraud. Senior associate Sara Sayer and legal director Maria-Christina Peyman are also central to the practice.

Practice head(s):

Laurence Weeks

Testimonials

Excellent value for money and good client service.

Lawrence Weeks is an outstanding litigator – very practical, client-friendly and commercial in his outlook.

The litigation team are very experienced and capable.

Laurence Weeks is a very good individual to have at your side in a litigation matter. He is very calm under pressure and makes sure that the client is given the best advice in the circumstances.

The team is exceptionally good. Their administrative law and public law practices are superb. They advise on the biggest issues in their regions, and do so with excellent insight into their practice areas. They know their region well and have an in-depth understanding of the issues which come up in that context.’

They are committed to getting the very best result for their clients, and they leave no stone unturned in doing so. They pay close attention to what their client is seeking to achieve, and pursue that as far as possible. They are thorough, pragmatic, client-focused and bright. Instructions from them are a joy to receive, for their clarity and considered nature.

They have additional strengths in education and health, which are served equally well.

The profile of their clients is superb – some are high-profile clients and of a quality one might not expect for a firm of their size. The cases they do give rise to interesting issues, often cutting edge, and their practice is broad and varied.

Sara Sayer is very good quality and very good value. Her focus is on what her client’s objectives are, and she thinks creatively to achieve those objectives. Her broad litigation experience means she can deal with almost any dispute that crosses her desk with aplomb. She is pragmatic, robust and clear minded. She is far better than a safe pair of hands; I would trust her to run any dispute of my own.

The team is spread over multiple offices but feels like a coherent whole. It is well led, commercially-focused and, from the perspective of counsel, provides excellent client-tailored advice. Whilst the team isn’t as large as you find in some London firms, the quality – and attendant value for money – is every bit as good, if not better than their metropolitan peers.

Laurence Weeks is exceptional with clients and leads his team very well. He is very easy to work with in the best sense of that phrase – as counsel you know you will be properly briefed and the case management/client management aspects of the team are going to be done very well.

Julie Spencer is an excellent associate who is well able to take on work far beyond her years’ experience in private practice. She is a delight to work with and extremely reliable in getting the necessary work done to a high quality.

Key clients

Trinity Hall College Cambridge

Work highlights

  • A professional negligence claim against former solicitors.
  • Claims against former directors of a borrower company.
  • A claim against a company in respect of an assigned refund for VAT secured from HMRC.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP acts for regional, national and international clients in the technology, life sciences, food and agri-business, private client, health and education sectors. Its focus is mainly on mid-market corporates with turnover of up to £300m. Jamie Wheatley leads a practice that handles complex and high-value contract disputes, shareholder actions, procurement cases and much more. Among the firm's recommended practitioners are up-and-coming partner Douglas McDonald, who handles contract disputes in the technology and life sciences sectors, and principal associate Helen Prandy, among whose clients are government departments, the NHS and numerous pharmaceutical companies.

Practice head(s):

Jamie Wheatley

Other key lawyers:

Douglas McDonald; Helen Prandy

Testimonials

‘The firm and staff were highly professional. The advice and guidance given was practical and realistic and the outcome was positive.’

‘Mills & Reeve are highly efficient and the practice consists of a high number of impressive partners in whom we have total confidence. Their ability to combine their professional expertise with a confident and engaging manner makes the practice unique.’

Key clients

American Insurance Group

The Insolvency Service

University of Cambridge

NHS England

Work highlights

  • Advised Gibraltar-based Westward Consultants Limited, on its claim for the payment of an uplift connected with the provision of litigation funding to a third party.
  • Acted for the defendant in High Court proceedings in the Business & Property Courts of England & Wales for a breach of warranty claim with a value in excess of €10m.
  • Advising Gerard Barnes, one of five defendants, on the defence of a multi-party claim for damages under s423 Insolvency Act 1986, and/or breach of fiduciary duty and/or conspiracy to injure.

Taylor Vinters

Taylor Vinters has 'tech-savvy litigators who really understand the needs of innovative and entrepreneurial clients' and who are praised for their 'consistent application, thoroughness, attention to detail, and patience'. The firm acts for numerous international and local technology businesses, though it also advises clients in many other industry sectors on high-profile and complex disputes. Its international work is growing, with recent disputes involving Australia, India, Russia and many other jurisdictions. Luke Hibbert and Gareth Dickson are the lead partners. Senior associate Naomi Westcott, hired from Birketts LLP, and associate Jonathan Davies are also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Luke Hibbert

Testimonials

The firm has a specialist interest in the technology sector, basing its office in Cambridge on the science park. It is exceptionally good on anything science-based and involving confidential or digital material.

Gareth Dickson, Jonathan Davies and Dominic Holmes are very tech-savvy litigators who really understand the needs of innovative and entrepreneurial clients.

In a difficult and large quantum claim against the government, the TV team showed consistent application, thoroughness, attention to detail, and patience. Both Luke Hibbert and Beth Price displayed those qualities, and Miss Price was always quick and complete in her responses.

Great quality and commercial, no-nonsense advice. The firm has a great team, with everyone bringing their strength to the table.

Luke Hibbert is commercial, Beth Price is client-focused and Christine Berry has sound judgment.

Legal advice is not simply provided in a vacuum, it is thought through and considered taking account of commercial realities. The focus on what makes sense for the business is a refreshing approach, not often seen in practices of this size.

Luke Hibbert goes the extra mile – he takes the time to fully understand the issue at hand and is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and to dive into the detail. I like the fact that he is receptive to feedback and receives comments positively.

Work highlights

  • Instructed by a pre-eminent hairdressing and hair salon equipment designer in relation to various matters, including enforcing its rights in UK and European markets. Advised the client on a complex commercial dispute with a competitor and a designer respectively, concerning the provision of services to our client.
  • Handling High Court proceedings alleging breach of contract regarding the development of quantum computing tools and algorithms; expert evidence on quantum computing and algorithms; and an application for security for costs in an international context involving multiple currencies.
  • Defending an Italian producer of famous alcoholic beverages and other products, which has been accused of breaching a distribution agreement and is currently engaged in proceedings in London following the other side having commenced unsuccessful proceedings in Puerto Rico.

Ashtons Legal

Ashtons Legal has a commercial litigation practice that spans all of its offices in East Anglia, with Cambridge an important hub for the firm's work in high-value cases. Its work encompasses franchising litigation, commercial debt, shareholder disputes, breach of director’s duties and disputes arising from corporate transactions, including those concerning corporate finance and enforcement of security. Michael Frape, a qualified mediator and experienced litigator, leads the practice. Among his clients are the region's largest building society, Cambridge colleges and numerous housebuilders.

Practice head(s):

Michael Frape

Testimonials

‘My instructions were very well organised, clear, focused and contained all the information required to deal with the issues in question. Any requests I had were quickly, efficiently and effectively responded to. The instructions and subsequent interaction could not be faulted.’

‘I dealt with Michael Frape who had a firm grip on the litigation and whose approach was considered, robust and client-focused.’

‘Firm that punches well above its weight. Capable of matching if not besting the big London firms.’

‘Michael Frape has great experience as a commercial litigator. Happy to roll up his sleeves and get into the detail, not only of the facts but also the law.’

‘Wonderful with clients.’

 

Key clients

CeX

Water Babies

Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries

Signs Express

Flip Out

The Cambridge Building Society

The Cambridge Satchel Company Limited

Work highlights

  • Acting for the founder member/investors in a timeshare resort (116 apartments in Gran Canaria, Spain) defending a claim brought by the trustee company in respect of potential liability for a Spanish tax bill of circa €2.5m.

Hewitsons

Hewitsons has a four-partner practice that has significant expertise in public procurement, public law, EU regulatory cases, judicial reviews and professional negligence. The firm acts for large business and high-net-worth individuals in and around Cambridge, though it has a growing flow of work from outside the region. Through its links with the National Farmers’ Union, the firm is instructed in numerous high-value agricultural disputes. Simon Biggin and senior associate Stewart Morrison are the names to note.

Practice head(s):

Simon Biggin

Other key lawyers:

Stewart Morrison

Key clients

National Farmers’ Union

Howes Percival LLP

'A powerful regional practice with first-class London quality and superb value for money,' is how one client describes Howes Percival LLP. The firm's Cambridge office has grown its litigation capability since the practice was created four years ago, bringing more regional, national and international cases including contractual, shareholder and partnership disputes. The 'extremely astute, commercial and unflappableMichael Green leads a practice that is praised for its 'active, hands-on partner engagement and excellent associates'. Director Victoria Sandell is 'bright, incredibly hard-working and efficient'.

Practice head(s):

Michael Green

Other key lawyers:

Victoria Sandell

Testimonials

A good commercial litigation practice with very active, hands-on partner engagement and excellent associates. A powerful regional practice with first-class London quality – superb value for money.

Michael Green, partner in the Cambridge office, is a highly experienced and excellent commercial litigator: extremely astute, commercial, unflappable and focused on the interests of the client.

Victoria Sandell, a director in the same office, is a superb case-handler: bright, incredibly hard-working, efficient, far-sighted and a total pleasure to work with.

Key clients

BDO

Mazars

Bowker BMW

Algean Sarl

Ben’s Cookies

Masters Logistical Services Ltd

Frampton International

Saxton 4×4

Willis Gambier UK

Dave Thomas Management Ltd

Work highlights

  • Instructed by Dave Thomas Property Management Ltd & Others to pursue compensation as a result of RBS’ actions for damages caused by its Global Restructuring Group.
  • Representing a large Cambridgeshire-based logistics company, Masters Logistical Services Ltd, following a significant fire damage insurance claim.
  • Representing one of the leading premium motor dealers in the region, Saxton 4×4 Ltd, in several claims relating to premium motor vehicles.

Stobbs IP

Stobbs IP in Cambridge is best known as a boutique intellectual property practice but its constantly growing litigation group is also active in high-profile commercial litigation, including matters in the High Court. Clients praise the firm for its 'flexible team able to create high-quality dispute resolution strategies and deliver the desired results'. Among its clients are Liverpool FC and Corkers Crisps. Practice head Chris Sleep and litigation principal Geoff Steward are the main practitioners.

Practice head(s):

Chris Sleep; Geoff Steward

Testimonials

Stobbs has a flexible team able to create high-quality dispute resolution strategies and deliver the desired results. They listen and understand the needs of the business particularly well. They have attractive fees compared to the biggest IP law firms in the London area. They have a good mixture of experienced practitioners and rising stars. They are able to explain complex issues in a simple way, and are innovative in their approach.

Julius Stobbs is an excellent businessman, an innovative thinker, and a terrific lawyer at the same time. Geoff Steward is a highly experienced litigator with a strategic mindset and passion for brand protection and enforcement. Chris Sleep has a sharp mind helping him deliver thoughtful and pragmatic advice. Amelia Sainsbury is a proactive and reliable solicitor you can turn to in any IP enforcement scenario.

Key clients

AB InBev (Becks, Budweiser, Corona, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Stella Artois, etc.)

All Saints

ASOS

Balfour Beatty

Beiersdorf AG

Cambridge University

Capri Sun

Channel 4

Corkers Crisps

Glencairn Crystal

Harley-Davidson

Liverpool Football Club

Marks & Spencer

Mars Wrigley

Marshall Amplification

Meyer Bergman

Philip Warren & Son Butchers

Pip & Nut

O2

Tottenham Hotspur FC

Work highlights

  • Acting for Liverpool FC in its successful defence of a High Court (Commercial Court) claim brought by New Balance disputing whether a matching provision within that kit sponsorship agreement had been satisfied.
  • Acting for well-known, high-end, family butchers, Philip Warren & Son, in a High Court (Short Trial Scheme) claim for passing off against Lidl, relating to their use of WARREN & SONS on their own brand meat products (with an estimated value of £50m).
  • Acting for Corkers Crisps Limited in an IPEC claim against BFY Brands (recently acquired by Pepsi Co) for trade mark infringement and passing off relating to their sale of CORNERS corn snacks.

Tees Law

The dispute resolution group at Tees Law 'works very quickly and efficiently, with zeal and true professionalism'. The firm climbs the ranking this year having been involved in increasingly high-value and complex disputes including breach of contract and misrepresentation claims. Senior associate and Higher Court Advocate Sara Stabler, who leads the practice, 'will fight for you all the way', according to one client. Assistant solicitor Katie Hayes also handles commercial litigation.

Practice head(s):

Sara Stabler

Other key lawyers:

Katie Hayes

Testimonials

The Tees dispute resolution team works very quickly and efficiently, with zeal and true professionalism. The members of the team are friendly and extremely personable. They work well together and can be contacted easily. Their depth of knowledge is exceptional and this knowledge is used cleverly with individual clients’ needs always at the forefront.

I have frequent contact with Sara Stabler, James Dowson and, to a lesser extent, with James Marsh. Sara and James are truly excellent exponents of the legal profession and, in terms of ability and incisive thought and delivery, combined with response time, leave contemporaries in some other organisations in the shade.

I have used Tees law for many years and would not want to go anywhere else. When you give them a call, you know that you will be able to speak to somebody and get a response. This is so important when issues arise that you don’t know the answer to. For peace of mind, we want an answer to a problem now, not in a week’s time. Tees gives you this, you pass your problems to them, let them sort it out, and they do.

Sara Stabler and James Dawson have been exceptional in the issues that have arisen through the sale of my business. Sara will fight for you all the way, if she feels what you have done is right. If anyone has a litigation issue, I would recommend Sara.

Tees is highly professional, responsive and client-friendly.

They have always proved to be extremely adept at dealing with difficult legal issues with their practical “no-nonsense” approach.

The standout individuals I deal with are Polly Kerr and Sara Stabler. Both are highly experienced and offer excellent advice.

Sara Stabler brings a pragmatic approach to litigation, providing realistic solutions for her clients.

Woodfines LLP

The team at Woodfines LLP is 'polite, professional, efficient and keen to get a good deal for the client'. Practice head Maria Koureas-Jones, who is a member of R3 and the Insolvency Lawyers Association, 'is always on the ball and works hard for the client'. Clients note that the firm, which handles contractual, shareholder and director disputes, is 'big enough to have experts in a wide range of specialities but able to preserve the client contact expected of a small, friendly firm'.

Practice head(s):

Maria Koureas-Jones

Testimonials

A firm big enough to have experts in a wide range of specialities but able to preserve the client contact expected of a small, friendly firm. I appreciate the easy access to team members and knowing that the same person was seeing the case through to the end.

All of the team that worked on our negligence claim were exemplary.

Polite, professional, efficient and keen to get a good deal for the client. They are sensitive to the pressures of running a business while pursuing a claim – only contacting us for critical information or decisions – and are great at offering options and suggesting likely outcomes.

Very responsive and good at coming up with a practical way out of disputes. The firm builds a strong relationship with the client, and clients trust them.

Maria Koureas-Jones is always on the ball and works hard for the client.

Rita Wright has good ideas and has the client’s interests at heart.

Key clients

Mazars

Griffins

RSM

Menzies

Begbies Traynor

McTear Williams Wood

Bulley Davey