Commercial litigation: Newcastle in North

Muckle LLP

The litigation experts at Muckle LLP ‘consistently provide advice of the highest legal order’. The team’s caseload is varied and includes anything in the range of general commercial, construction, property, IP and professional indemnity disputes. The practice has niche expertise in the music and media industry, which is among the areas of focus of George Festing. Highly regarded department head Susan Howe is noted for her cross-border experience in financial asset tracing. Contentious public procurement work remains a field of focus for the team; and Leah Heatley is widely recognised as a strong public procurement litigator, the practice has also recently grown its junior level offering.

Practice head(s):

Susan Howe

Other key lawyers:

Leah Heatley; George Festing; Alex Speirs

Testimonials

‘I have always found the firm to consistently provide advice of the highest legal order. I trust their advice without question. They have always shown sound judgement and they know which points need to be pushed and which points need to be conceded. Their cross-referrals internally have been seamless and each department exhibits the same high standards.’

‘I would in particular recommend Leah Heatley, who is a dream to work with. She is prompt, attentive to both detail and client, and successfully navigates her way through matters with a combative spirit and good humour.’

‘Muckle have a strong team with excellent strategic know-how and expertise across a wide range of areas.’

‘Susan Howe is the standout individual at Muckle; she offers a reassuring presence to clients throughout their litigation journey; whilst having an excellent overview on where the client wants to get and how to get there.’

‘The Muckle team is by far the most talented and commercially focused set of litigation lawyers in the North East and, in my experience, one of the best nationally. Their approach is all about individual service and hands-on client care with very transparent billing and value for money. Their range of contentious specialisms is also quite unique in Newcastle. They really do deliver results.’

‘Susan Howe is simply unrivalled in the region for litigation experience and strategic expertise and she’s put together a team of very talented individuals.’

‘Both Leah Heatley and John Devine are excellent, providing first-class advice and support on what are often complex, fast-moving matters.’

Key clients

Caribbean Premier League Limited

Spurgeon’s College

Specialist IT Services Group Limited

NG Bailey Limited

Persimmon Homes Limited

Mandale Construction

Leovegas Gaming Plc

Work highlights

  • Assisting the Caribbean Premier League with various IP litigation matters concerning the unauthorised use of CPL’s name and registered trademarks.
  • Advising multiple small- and medium-sized enterprises on contentious claims for losses through their business interruption insurance policies.
  • Acting for leading mobile gaming company Leovegas Gaming Plc in claims relating to GDPR and intellectual property issues.

Sintons LLP

According to one client, Sintons LLP houses ‘an excellent team with very good collaborative working and communication’. The practice acts for both companies and individuals and handles the gamut of professional negligence, contractual, trusts and estate disputes. In addition, Angus Ashman has been leading on several of the firm’s most significant property-related cases, which is also an area of focus for Graeme Ritzema. The practice has been undergoing significant changes; the ‘splendidHilary Waters joined from a professional services company in September 2020 and took over leadership of the practice from Ashman; this arrival bolstered the firm’s offering in indirect tax litigation. A month later, defamation specialist David Summerhayes departed to embark on an in-house career. Associate Aimee Hubbard is also recommended for her ‘outstanding performance’.

Practice head(s):

Hilary Waters

Other key lawyers:

Angus Ashman; Graeme Ritzema; Aimee Hubbard; Cristina Falzon

Testimonials

‘An excellent team with very good collaborative working and communication.’

‘Worked closely with Aimee Hubbard. Outstanding performance in dealing with the issues, framing litigation risks and clear explanations around possible outcomes. Excellent response time.’

‘The disputes and corporate teams at Sintons are, in my experience, staffed with well-qualified, exceptionally capable lawyers who deliver focused advice from a “real world” position which only comes from experience. They are focused on providing the best client advice.’

‘Hilary Waters. I honestly believe that our agreement would not have been possible without the approach and the work which Hilary has executed. She has a very analytical mind.’

‘This is a Northern firm with a very good reputation in general work, which is now branching out into tax work. I know Hilary Waters very well – she is splendid. Good client skills. She is very knowledgeable across the subject of indirect tax, in general, and VAT in particular.’

‘I found the team to be caring, thoughtful and focused on the task in hand.’

‘The individuals are clearly well trained. Christina Falzon is very sharp and on the ball. I would highly recommend her. We dealt with Cristina who handled our copyright infringement case conscientiously and with the necessary attention to detail such that we were able to achieve an acceptable settlement under the circumstances.’

‘Aimee Hubbard is thorough, knowledgeable and astute, giving us a comprehensive roadmap for our case. At every step, she has managed our expectations extremely well, with timely and clear communication, a full view of the merits of our claim and pragmatic advice at the junctions where we needed to make decisions. She has also proved to be a strong negotiator, and we have been very reassured and confident that she has been able to achieve the best possible outcome for our settlement.’

Key clients

Quanta Services Group Limited

Zynk Software Limited

Matrix Health Services UK Limited

Work highlights

  • Acting for a local authority landowner in a right of way dispute with the local authority.
  • Assisting a large property company with a family ownership dispute.
  • Advising an energy company on warranty and misrepresentation claims following a management buyout.

Ward Hadaway LLP

Ward Hadaway’s ‘expertise and ability to handle complex, multi-party litigation is really impressive’. Led by ‘seriously impressive team leaderPeter Hornsey, the commercial litigation department utilises its ‘top-to-bottom talent’ to handle a full scope of disputes arising in relation to corporate transactions, breaches of contract, professional negligence and other tortious claims, insurance and financial law issues, among other matters. Robert Glassford has a wealth of experience acting for public sector clients. A key contact for financial sector work, Martin Woodford is dual-qualified as a barrister and solicitor. Legal director Lucy Cleghorn and managing associate Joe Kelley are rising stars in the team.

Practice head(s):

Peter Hornsey

Other key lawyers:

Robert Glassford; Martin Woodford; Tim Toomey; Lucy Cleghorn; Joe Kelley

Testimonials

‘The team have top-to-bottom talent. Their client care, especially over the past 12 months, has been great. I have been really impressed with the way in which cases have been kept on track and there has been continuous client engagement. The expertise and ability to handle complex, multi-party litigation is really impressive. Additionally, there is real focus on achieving the clients’ objectives and an eye on strategy.’

‘Peter Hornsey is a seriously impressive team leader and a cool head at all times. Such breadth of experience that clients know they’re in safe hands.’

‘Lucy Cleghorn must be a rising star. Great client management coupled with an extremely good eye for detail. Really thoughtful litigator.’

‘No matter what I need or when I need it, the team at Ward Hadaway is always willing to assist.’

‘Robert Glassford is a very good lawyer, experienced, strong analytically, balanced and measured. Joe Kelley is hardworking, practical and calm. Tim Toomey and Russell Ward have a sound judgment and maintain good relationships with clients. Lucy Cleghorn is practical.’

‘My main contact is with Tim Toomey whom I have dealt for a few years now. Tim’s clear and direct approach to insurance disputes, together with his extensive knowledge, mean that I am confident of recommending him while also being fully comfortable that the advice being given is sound.’

‘Russell Ward is particularly effective at developing relationships with clients to ensure mutual trust and understanding. Strong litigator who is willing to put in the extra hours to ensure good results for his clients.’

‘Joe Kelley and Robert Glassford are both very thoughtful and responsive. They are great with clients but also have great tactical nous. For high-value commercial litigation, particularly in the North East, I wouldn’t recommend anyone else.’

Key clients

The Banks Group Limited

Tees Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust

Providence Bonds Investor Action Group

Inclusion Housing C.I.C

Manna Pro Products LLC

NH International (Caribbean) Ltd

Independent Utility Advice Limited

Story Homes Limited

Work highlights

  • Representing The Banks Group Ltd in the defence of a claim relating to a joint venture company and the acquisition of a substantial area of land for residential development in Durham.
  • Represented Inclusion Housing in a commercial judicial review against the social housing regulator.
  • Acted for Manna Pro Products LLC in the defence of an IP claim in the Business and Property Court.

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Part of the strength of Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP is its ability to pool together the firm’s resources nationwide, making the full-service group a strong contestant for high-value commercial litigation mandates at national level. At the same time, the ‘hardworking, knowledgeable and friendly’ team is a destination for multiple top-20 companies in the North East. Department head Paul Stewart is regularly retained by companies in the transport, manufacturing and chemicals sectors. The practice is also adept at handling disputes in the public and financial services sectors; contentious procurement team leader Richard Collins is a go-to adviser for multiple domestic and international clients in this space. Managing associates Francesca Hodgson and Jonny Gribben are rising stars in the team.

Practice head(s):

Paul Stewart

Other key lawyers:

Richard Collins; Francesca Hodgson; Jonny Gribben

Testimonials

‘Hardworking, knowledgeable and friendly. An absolute joy to work with. ’

‘The team is led by Paul Stewart who exemplifies all of the qualities identified above. He is very hand on, thinks carefully about the issues, identifies difficulties and looks for solutions. Everything you want from a litigation solicitor.’

‘Anna Booth’s attention to detail is very impressive; she is completely on top of the papers and an invaluable person to be able to go to for quick answers to points.’

Key clients

Northern Powergrid

Bombardier Transportation UK Limited

Post Office Limited

Go-Ahead Group

Venator

North P&I

Prosper Procurement

Work highlights

  • Advising Bombardier on a claim challenging the award by London Underground of a flagship contract to Siemens.

Gibson & Co Solicitors Ltd

Gibson & Co Solicitors Ltd has a longstanding track-record of excellence in financial services litigation, with additional strengths in contractual and corporate disputes. Notably, the group is also adept at acting on cross-border mandates; its recent standout work also involves alternative dispute resolution. Practice head Toby Gibson and Jane Gibson  are a highly recommended duo, with clients considering them to be ‘amongst the most committed and enthusiastic lawyers’. Michael Reed and associate Ashley Padgett are also singled out.

Practice head(s):

Toby Gibson

Other key lawyers:

Jane Gibson; Ashley Padgett; Michael Reed; Claire Aston; Lewis Fairfax

Testimonials

‘Magic Circle skills and competence with Newcastle friendliness. Able to put together a team to manage any type of litigious dispute. My experience is with the specialist commercial litigation partners and associates but the firm also provides non-contentious advice to clients on conveyancing, wills, trust and probate matters.’

‘Partners Toby Gibson and Jane Gibson and associate Ashley Padgett. I really enjoyed working with them. They provide a high standard of service to their clients with the friendliness and accessibility of a Newcastle firm. So they respond to messages around the clock and give clients sound, practical advice. Toby and Jane have higher rights of audience and are experienced advocates which helps inform their advice to clients. Ashley has significant advocacy experience.’

‘A standout firm, which punches far above its weight. Equal, if not better than many of the top London firms with which I have worked, and with the added personal touch that comes from being a small, family outfit.’

‘Toby Gibson and Jane Gibson are amongst the most committed and enthusiastic lawyers I have even worked with. They think deeply about their clients’ cases, and are utterly charming to work with. They are also extremely responsive. I cannot recommend them highly enough.’

‘A go-to firm for commercial disputes and advice. Highly regarded and deservedly so. Michael Reid and Claire Aston are highly effective, hardworking and commercially astute.’

‘I had the pleasure of working with Toby Gibson, Jane Gibson and Ashley Padget on a case last year. They were available when needed and provided sound and prompt advice. They had a great commercial mindset and knew what was needed. The advantage of the firm is its size which ensures that the client gets senior attention when needed.’

‘Toby Gibson was available and quickly understood the issues and was able to advice and assist on them. My communication was primarily with Toby, who did a great job.’

‘Toby Gibson is an outstandingly good commercial litigator. He is keenly aware of commercial issues, has a tremendously reassuring manner with clients, and is a very bright lawyer.’

Key clients

ING Bank N.V.

Credit Suisse

Raja Group

The Forestry Commission

M R Finn Trust

Can-Am Chains Limited

Malik Supply A/S

Altus Media

Martin Baker Aircraft Company Limited

Work highlights

  • Acting for ING Bank N.V. and PricewaterhouseCoopers in multiple arbitral cases aiming to resolve multi-million-dollar claims against 200+ customers globally.
  • Representing a group of 53 vets in a £10m dispute over the terms of their partnership agreement with Medivet.
  • Assisting Credit Suisse with the defence of a claim relating to a former employee in Romania.

Hay & Kilner

Hay & Kilner’s litigators ‘provide excellent services to clients’ with respect to a wide range of disputes involving tortious claims, professional negligence actions, breaches of contract, contentious trusts and probate, among others. The practice places an emphasis on work in the energy, manufacturing and IT sectors. Lucy Gray heads up the practice, where clients also single out Rodney Jones, Tom Whitfield  and associate Sara Malik. Martin Solomons retired from the partnership at the end of 2020.

Practice head(s):

Lucy Gray

Other key lawyers:

Rodney Jones; Tom Whitfield; Sara Malik; Jan Rzedzian

Testimonials

‘Every member of staff takes the trouble to engage with you as a client. Receptionists and secretaries know enough about me and my business to make me feel a valid client so that end-to-end contact with the firm is a pleasure.’

‘I have dealt with partner Rodney Jones and he has always been outstanding in very quickly grasping the subject and immediately applying his knowledge to the issue. I have always come away from meetings and telephone calls feeling that I have received proper care and attention.’

‘Tom Whitfield stands out as knowledgeable, thorough, personable and approachable.’

‘Hay & Kilner provide excellent services to clients. In my experience, they seem to me to be both reasonable and upfront.’

‘Lucy Gray is an experienced litigator. She is pragmatic and builds a good rapport with the client.’

‘The department is undoubtedly the most solid commercial litigation outfit in the North East. The department is coming to the end of a generational change which it has handled brilliantly. Most of the young partners and fee earners are homegrown, know each other and their clients extremely well, and are committed to the business and its customers. Well-liked by the local judiciary and very well-respected at the local Bar.’

‘Stalwart Rodney Jones is a lovely man, with an incredible appetite for hard work; also kind and possesses the best judgment. Lucy Gray seems to be taking over and is a very safe pair of hands. She has been at the firm since a trainee. She is very well-liked by clients, deservedly so; she is committed to the clients and is always available to meet their needs. Sara Malik is a brilliant young associate who has seen action in some of the best disputes in Newcastle over the last year; undoubtedly she has a brilliant future ahead of her.’

Key clients

Indigo Software

Barrier Limited

Park Lane Healthcare Limited

Work highlights

  • Defending a local insurance broker in a professional negligence claim arising out of an alleged failure to notify clients claim to insurers in time to enable them to obtain legal expenses insurance.
  • Acting for a retired solicitor in a professional negligence claim.
  • Acting for the Asia-based owners of an energy sector company in a high-value claim against a former consultant engaged to work on-site for the business.

Weightmans

Weightmans fields a well-rounded litigation practice, which benefits from the firm’s strong presence in Newcastle and Leeds. Counting multiple large companies among its clients, the practice specialises in contentious employment work, data theft claims and disputes in the energy and TMT sectors. Andrew Cox in Birmingham leads the wider litigation group, where other key contacts include Newcastle regional office head Christopher Graham and Anthony Rance, who splits time between Leeds and Newcastle.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Cox

Other key lawyers:

Christopher Graham; Anthony Rance; Mark Reeves

Testimonials

‘Great support throughout a very challenging process. Always felt that the team had our interests as an utmost priority.’

‘Clearly an impressive group of individuals who are aligned to the firm values and always provide the excellent level of service.’

‘We have dealt with the firm for one commercial dispute and Christopher Graham was outstanding. We are always impressed and the way he deals with a matter and the way he communicates and reassures us.’

‘Anthony Rance – a smart, dependable and dynamic commercial litigation solicitor, at ease in any sector.’

‘The addition of Watson Burton to Weightmans means that it now has a real presence in Newcastle as well as Leeds. The sharing of expertise across offices appears to have worked very well and the firm has a number of experienced and strong litigators.’

‘Chris Graham has extensive experience of commercial disputes and a wide-ranging client base who like his matter-of-fact style.’

Key clients

Tanfield Group Plc

Crafter’s Companion

Millbrook Proving Ground Limited

Satcom Global Limited

Mach Recruitment Limited

David Allen Chartered Accountants

Utility Alliance Limited

Clearly Drinks

Helena Biosciences

Work highlights

  • Acting for an AIM-listed public limited company in a multi-million-pound professional negligence action against a large law firm.
  • Acting for one of the UK’s largest chartered financial planning firms in a claim against a former director in relation to breaches of contract and misuse of confidential information.
  • Representing an accountancy firm in a case that went to the Court of Appeal on a point of law regarding the tort of inducement.

Claire Collinson Legal

Claire Collinson Legal stands out for its work on disputes in the professional negligence, financial services and insurance space. Its varied client portfolio spans high-net-worth individuals, small regional businesses and national companies. Founding partner Claire Collinson leads the group.

Practice head(s):

Claire Collinson

Other key lawyers:

Helena Motherway; Ian Collinson

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP has carved out a reputation for its work on contentious probate cases, which remains an area of growth for the group. The practice also focuses on IP infringement claims, shareholder disputes and defamation work. The ‘very adaptable and knowledgeableStewart Irvine leads the department, where associate Robyn Aisbitt is also singled out.

Practice head(s):

Stewart Irvine

Other key lawyers:

Robyn Aisbitt; Susan Roberts

Testimonials

‘Everything ran smoothly for me. There was clear communication from start to finish and I was responded to in a timely manner by the team.’

‘Stewart Irvine was incredibly helpful, friendly and understanding of a difficult family situation. Stewart listened to my wishes and concerns and was as passionate. On a personal level, I am really interested in law and Stewart spent time explaining how the law works and why we were taking actions in the way we were. I really appreciated this approach and this allowed me to feel confident in the decisions that I was making. I’m really grateful to Stewart for all his guidance and support. I truly felt that Stewart had our best interests at heart throughout the process.’

‘The work undertaken has been done promptly, detailed and with a full understanding of the commercial litigation process. At all times during the work, we have been given a clear understanding of our options. Thankfully, their approach and advice has led to satisfactory outcomes.’

‘Stewart Irvine’s knowledge on the subject area is excellent, he provides clear and concise advice and recommendations.’

‘The team were very professional, with a quick turnaround.’

‘Stewart Irvine is very adaptable and knowledgeable with regard to the various claims he support us with. I find his willingness to work outside of the normal working day very useful and is always at the end of the phone when required. Like Stewart, Robyn Aisbitt is very efficient and provides very open and honest advice, often giving alternative strategies to consider which has been extremely useful over the last year.’

‘The practice at Mincoffs is unique due to their abilities, not only professionally but also from a personal point of view. When discussing issues with Mincoffs you are treated more like a friend rather than a client which is very reassuring. You always feel that you are in good hands with sound advice from a very knowledgeable team.’

‘Having worked with several members of the dispute resolution team at Mincoffs, their uniqueness comes from their people. Clearly internal communications are efficient, seamless and this is reflected in communications with clients. They are versatile and flexible, resulting in rapid responses to all matters raised.’

Key clients

High Street Group

Modern Milkman Ltd

Lugano Developments Limited

LB Foster Rail Technologies (UK) Limited

Schiedel Chimney systems Ltd

Express Lasers Limited

Lingotot Ltd

Northern Bear Plc

Holystone Civil Engineering Ltd

Steamforged Games Ltd

All Saints Construction Limited

Key Training Limited

Wellway Accountants Limited

Barhound Ltd

Rijeca Ltd

Ideal Caravan Sales Limited

YB Communications Limited

Product Agency Limited

GSC Grays Limited

Short Richardson & Forth

Short Richardson & Forth is known for representing both claimants and defendants in shareholder and partnership disputes. In addition, the practice is focuses on employment disputes and is gaining additional ground with respect to misrepresentation claims. The group’s litigation strength is coupled with an ability to settle claims by way of mediation. Practice head Tim Berg is regularly assisted by associate Alexandra Withers, with the duo being praised as ‘an efficient and capable team complimenting each other’s' strengths’.

Practice head(s):

Tim Berg

Other key lawyers:

Alexandra Withers

Testimonials

‘Tim Berg and Alexandra Withers form an efficient and capable team complimenting each other’s strengths. Tim has a wealth of experience in commercial litigation which enables him to bring wisdom and commercial sense to the cases he is involved in, and Alexandra Withers works with phenomenal efficiency and tenacious resolve.’

‘This is a very tightly-knit and focused team with strong relationships between the members. Clients seem to like the small, boutique atmosphere in which their business is prized and valued. They are not afraid to be ambitious and have national-level expertise to match.’

‘In my experience, Short Richardson & Forth provided a prompt, professional and attentive service. The evolving issues my company encountered required a flexible, fast-action response approach, which SRF provided which seemed to be the norm for them.’

‘Short Richardson & Forth’s dispute resolution team punches well above its weight, and is well respected within the industry.’

‘Tim Berg is always measured and calm, with many years of experience informing his decision making. He sees the commercial picture and never loses sight of the client’s goals.’

‘Alexandra Withers applies rigorous analysis to the facts of the case, documentation and witness evidence in a manner which sets her apart from many others of her level.’

‘Tim Berg: solid, level-headed, brilliant judgement, extensive experience, he is also extremely likeable and well-respected throughout the profession.’