Firms To Watch: Commercial litigation: Newcastle

Clarke Mairs LLP’s commercial litigation team, led by recently promotion to partner level Vivienne Burbridge, assists clients in contractual disputes involving property investment disputes and corporate issues. Fred Banning takes on breach of contract and professional negligence claims. The firm also takes on disputes concerning wills.

Commercial litigation: Newcastle in North

Gibson & Co Solicitors Ltd

Gibson & Co Solicitors Ltd, co-led by Toby Gibson and Jane Gibson, is noted as ‘simply head and shoulders above the competition locally’.  The duo are go-to names for multinational banks for international banking and corporate disputes, and are supported by Michael Reed. The firm also takes on IP disputes and corporate issues involving shareholders, and was recently bolstered by the promotion to senior associate of Ashley Shickle. Claire Alston, also a senior associate, and associate Lewis Fairfax provide key guidance to clients on a range of matters, not limited to alleged breach of director’s duties and proprietary estoppel claims.

Practice head(s):

Toby Gibson; Jane Gibson

Other key lawyers:

Michael Reed; Ashley Shickle; Claire Alston; Lewis Fairfax


‘Toby Gibson and his colleagues provide a standard and level of service that one would expect in a leading London litigation practice. Very responsive, excellent attention to detail, and a genuine pleasure to work with. Toby is very hands-on with all matters, which is precisely what we need.’

‘Gibson & Co’s secret is to bring city-level experience and expertise to lower-value regional work. The way in which they handle matters is both economical for the client and highly effective.’

‘Toby Gibson’s magic circle training and experience shines through in his clarity of thought and tactical nous. He is also a pleasure to work with. He is as good as any litigator outside the city and better than many in the city.’

Key clients

Clearcourse Partnership AcquireCo Ltd

John Craggs

Fletchers Solicitors Limited

Marketing Position Limited

Hughes Fowler Carruthers

Chris Jones

John and Helen Charlton

MR Finn Trust

Can-Am Chains Limited

Eileen Blake

Work highlights

  • Acting for Clearcourse AcquireCo in relation to the litigation aspects of a large number of corporate acquisitions in the tech world.
  • Acting for Fletchers Solicitors in the defence of a high value claim from an insolvent counterparty.
  • Acting for Marketing Position Limited in a multiparty dispute surrounding digital advertising in the waste collection world, including hotly contested injunctive applications.

Muckle LLP

Muckle LLP’s Newcastle-based dispute resolution practice, led by ‘stand-out partnerSusan Howe, advises international clients on a range of matters, not limited to contractual disputes concerning land, IP issues in the media space and data protection breach defences. George Festing is the key contact for clients in media industry, while Leah Heatley specialises in cross-jurisdictional disputes and public procurement challenges. Associate Alex Speirs is the go-to for contentious probate work and is experienced in working on high court claims, which includes breach of warranty disputes.

Practice head(s):

Susan Howe

Other key lawyers:

George Festing; Leah Heatley; Alex Spiers


‘Muckle provides an excellent in-depth service which combines expert legal knowledge with genuine commercial acumen.’

‘Susan Howe is the stand-out partner in the practice. She provides thoughtful and highly strategic leadership on every case.’

‘The firm combines a depth of knowledge with genuine commercial insight resulting in an exceptional client service experience. Put simply we would not consider going elsewhere’

‘Head of department Susan Howe has created the standout commercial litigation team in the North East. I wouldn’t go any where else for sound commercial, business focused litigation advice.’

‘What you get from Susan Howe is very clear legal analysis combined with a strategic commercial approach, and someone who doesn’t give up in a fight.’

‘Muckle has an excellent litigation team. It is responsive and able to adapt its litigation styles to the personalities involved in disputes to facilitate and achieve resolution before disputes escalate to full litigation.’

‘Leah Heatley is fantastic. She is our go to dispute advisor in the UK. Able to unpick complex problems, suggest strategies for resolution, and delivers difficult advice in way which is easy to understand to get buy in from the client. Also, able to put up a good fight!’

Key clients

Sunningdale House Developments Limited

Caribbean Premier League Limited

Atomos Investments Limited

Trivsel UK Limited

County Football Association

The Station Hotel (Newcastle) Limited

Hays Travel Limited

parkrun Limited

MRI Software Limited

BDW Trading Limited (trading as Barratt Homes)

Work highlights

  • Instructed by Sunningdale to advise on a high value dispute with a county council regarding a conditional agreement to purchase a plot of land for development.
  • Providing ongoing advice to the Carribean Premier League (CPL) on various IP-related litigation matters.
  • Defended Atmos Investments Limited in a high court claim brought by a former employee alleging breaches of data protection legislation, breach of confidence and privacy.

Ward Hadaway LLP

Disputes involving contractual breaches, defamation claims, issues concerning winding up petitions and professional negligence are frequent mandates for Ward Hadaway LLP’s Newcastle-based commercial litigation team. Practice head Peter Hornsey represents clients in disputes concerning professional negligence, IP and public sector fraud. Seasoned litigator Martin Woodford is the key contact for disputes regarding the challenging of wills and the removal of trustees, also working on multiparty disputes arising out of the cancellation of PFI projects. IT-related disputes and professional negligence claims form a large part of Tim Toomey’s work. Robert Glassford handles complex contractual disputes and administrative court claims, while Russell Ward‘s strengths lie in employment claims which fall within the jurisdiction of the Court. Legal director Lucy Cleghorn not only supports the team but also is experienced in representing litigants who bring appeals before the Privy Council.

Practice head(s):

Peter Hornsey

Other key lawyers:

Robert Glassford; Martin Woodford; Tim Toomey; Russel Ward; Lucy Cleghorn

Key clients

Tees Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust

Duke of Northumberland

Mr Neil Whelpton

Maria Daniel

Tech Nation Limited

West Cumbria Mining Ltd

Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust

Work highlights

  • Representing Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust in a claim involving the termination of PFI agreement.
  • Acting for the Duke of Northumberland in a substantial defamation claim and complaint to IPSO against a number of national and local newspaper publications.
  • Acting successfully in injunction proceedings to restrain the presentation of a winding up petition, which had been wrongfully threatened by one of its contractors.

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP is the first port of call for clients in the transport, leisure, manufacturing and chemicals sectors. Practice head Richard Collins represents clients in public procurement challenges and handles disputes arising out of complex financial products. Paul Stewart, who was recently appointed as UK managing partner, is a go-to for clients in the transport sector, including rail, seeking assistance for contractual and tortious claims. Jonny Gribben, described by one client as a ‘litigation strategist’, is a key contact for clients in the technology, manufacturing, and energy sectors. Legal director Francesca Hodgson is an expert in disputes concerning compliance issues, particularly in the environment, health and safety as well as education spaces. The Newcastle office collaborates with other regional offices to work on national and cross-border matters, and is bolstered by the expertise of associates Michael Wharton, Lyudmil Stoyanov and Lorena Hoxhaj.

Practice head(s):

Richard Collins

Other key lawyers:

Paul Stewart; Jonny Gribben; Francesca Hodgson; Michael Wharton; Lyudmil Stoyanov; Lorena Hoxhaj


‘The commercial team are serious players in the North. Whenever I worked with them it was on important litigations for some of the largest businesses in the region.’

‘Jonny Gribben is really excellent. Great to work with and always a pleasure to work with him as counsel.’

‘Jonny Gribben is a very good litigation strategist. We have had some really good results together.’

Key clients

Northern Powergrid plc

Arriva plc

Progress Rail Services UK Limited

Atom Bank plc

Go-Ahead Group


North P&I

Parkdean Resorts UK Limited

Draeger Safety UK Ltd

Goffs UK Limited

Government Legal Department

Work highlights

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP assists clients in disputes concerning the breach of various contractual agreements, such as PPAs in the energy space and SPAs leading to bankruptcies. Stewart Irvine heads the commercial litigation, property litigation and debt recovery teams; he is also experienced in dealing with probate, shareholder disputes, IP issues, as well as professional negligence claims. Associates Susan Roberts and Robyn Aisbitt are key team members.

Practice head(s):

Stewart Irvine

Other key lawyers:

Susan Roberts; Robyn Aisbitt


‘Very impressed with initial engagement. Professional approach, informative and down to earth, honest advice.’

‘Mincoffs have dealt with us in a way that suits our experience and strengths whenever possible and have been flexible in its approach to our needs when necessary. The service has been extremely efficient from the outset and continues to be so.’

‘The practice has dealt with my case in a thoroughly professional way and are easily contactable, sympathetic, efficient and helpful. Outstanding customer service.’

Key clients

The One Collection Group Ltd

Conduit Construction Network Limited

LB Foster Rail Technologies Limited

Realsafe Technologies Limited

The Station Hotel Ltd

CD Engineering Services Limited

Northern Bear Plc

Johnny’s Entertainments Limited

Schiedel Chimney Systems Limited

Engenera Renewables Limited

Clark Homes Limited

North East Care Homes Limited

Steamforged Games Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised a North East Company in connection with a multi-million-pound claim asserted against them for breach of a contract in respect of a joint venture agreement.
  • Advised a leisure industry client in respect of a claim asserted against them for losses associated with alleged breaches of their licensing obligations and implications regarding a possible investigation from their regulator.
  • Advising a 50/50 shareholder in relation to the breakdown of relationship with the other 50/50 shareholder and dealing with allegations of unfair prejudice.

Sintons LLP

Sintons LLP's commercial litigation practice provides clients with local, national and international representation on an array of disputes, namely dealing with commercial contracts and warranty claims, director duties, contentious probate and property issues. Practice head Hilary Waters is a specialist in indirect tax litigation, while Angus Ashman is an expert in commercial contract disputes and real estate litigation. With Graeme Ritzema and Kathryn Riddell in the team, the practice also frequently represents professionals in clinical negligence claims and defends NHS trusts and individuals in coroners inquests. Associate Cristina Falzon has been appointed as a district judge in the family courts and will take up that post in January 2024.

Practice head(s):

Hilary Waters

Other key lawyers:

Angus Ashman; Graeme Ritzema; Kathryn Riddell; Cristina Falzon


‘Highly effective commercially minded solicitors with particularly experience in technology based clients’

‘Hilary Waters is a gifted litigator with extensive experience of conducting High Court litigation’

‘One of the reasons myself and my immediate family have used Sintons over the years is that whichever department you employ the advice received is laid out in a clear fashion which the layman can understand.’

Work highlights

  • Advising individuals and directors of a clothing company in respect of a duty tax claim and a claim pursuant to the section 212 and 423 Insolvency Act 1986 brought by the Liquidator in the sum of £3.2m.
  • Advised a large owner of brown field sites in a matter with an international corporate tenant who had breached their covenants to carry out significant infrastructure works and instal culverts to allow road access over cables and pipes.
  • Advised a corporate landlord in the leisure and retail sector against a novel argument regarding delay in responding to an application for permission to assign a tenancy resulting in the landlord waiving its right to an Authorised Guarantee Agreement under the Landlord and Tenant (Covenants) Act 1995.


Christopher Graham, head of Weightmans’ regional office in Newcastle, leads high court actions concerning the prevention of database misuse, the recovery of diverted funds and investigations into serious fraud compliance as well as freezing orders. Experienced commercial litigator Anthony Rance is a go-to name for disputes involving professional negligence, issues pertaining to IT projects, the misuse of confidential information and cyber incidents. Legal director Jill Dalkin is a specialist in assisting a diverse range of clients with high value real estate litigation. Principal associate Mark Reeves is a key support in professional negligence, franchise and misuse of information disputes.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Cox

Other key lawyers:

Christopher Graham; Jill Dalkin; Anthony Rance; Mark Reeves


‘Weightmans would be my first thought and top choice in the region if someone rang me in panic about the company having just fallen victim to a cyberattack.’

‘Jill Dalkin stood out with her attention to detail and determination to get things right, as well as an ability to communicate legal process and technical information in a clear way to us as clients with little legal background. Chris Graham was also excellent with his clarity of thought and proactive thinking which enabled a clear strategy for the case.’

‘Jill Dalkin has a tenacity and determination for success for her clients. With her exceptional professional knowledge and skills, plain talking, unflappable demeanour without any sign of aggression, it has proved very beneficial to us achieving in excess of our goal in a recent dispute.’

‘A strong and experienced team who give sensible and thorough advice. They will take matters to court if necessary but also negotiate a settlement if that is in the best interests of the client.’

‘Jill Dalkin is sensible and pleasant but a tough negotiator. Takes her own views of cases. She is a star.’

‘From the very beginning Weightmans gave me the highest level of professional services, with such a large expert pool of professionals to draw knowledge from.’

‘Anthony Rance in particular has always gone above and beyond in all aspects of work that he has undertaken. No matter what time day or night, if an urgent issue arose, or a deadline was fast approaching, he would always do whatever was required to get the job done in his usual professional and diligent manner.’

‘Mark Reeves is the best solicitor you could have for a commercial dispute. A really safe pair of hands.’

Key clients

Northern PowerGrid

Tanfield Group Plc

David Allen Chartered Accountants

Leighton Corporation

The Veterans Foundation

Dimerco Express Group

SNC- Lavalin Group

Redu Group Limited


PSI Global Limited

Work highlights

  • Assisted Tanfield Group Plc in a professional negligence claim against two separate law firms located in different jurisdictions.

Hay & Kilner

Hay & Kilner’s commercial litigation team leverages its extensive experience in the business and property courts and technology and construction courts. The firm takes on misrepresentation claims in the property space and employment claims involving breach of non-compete clauses are frequent instructions. Tom Whitfield focuses on professional negligence claims brought against a range of professionals. Construction specialist Jan Rzedzian remains a key name, as is senior associate Guy Barr. All named lawyers are based in Newcastle.

Other key lawyers:

Tom Whitfield; Jan Rzedzian; Guy Barr


‘Hay & Kilner have become my first choice in respect debt recovery matters and they provide a friendly and very professional service. I can rely on their advice and guidance in respect of debt recovery and be confident that resolution is the basis for their advice and so I don’t need to be concerned about unnecessary litigation.’

‘Down-to-earth people who work in a sensible and pragmatic manner, taking the fear out of legal processes for those who aren’t used to having to deal with them.’

‘They make themselves available to support, often at short notice.’

Key clients

Indigo Software

Barrier Limited

Work highlights