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  1. Corporate and commercial: Dorset and South Wiltshire
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‘One of the highest-quality corporate practices’ in Bournemouth, Lester Aldridge LLP has a strong SME-focused client base with particular experience in the software and IT sectors. Practice head Grant Esterhuizen is highly regarded in the local market and has been engaged by a number of UK corporates in various share transactions involving foreign purchasers. Esterhuizen advised the shareholders of a south west aerospace group on the sale of the entire issued share capital to a US-based acquirer. Similarly, the department head acted for the shareholders of South Coast Oil and Lubricants in a high-value share transaction with a Brazilian acquirer. Susan Cowan specialises in the care home sector and is another key figure in the department. Associate Alexandra Clapp joined the firm from Moore Blatch LLP and has since handled the finance aspects of a number of property-related transactions. Indeed, Clapp advised a borrower on the security, facility and intercreditor documents related to a £25m acquisition finance facility for the purchase of a group of care home companies. Alex Bilionis left the legal field in 2017.

By some clients’ measure, the service at Steele Raymond LLP ‘far exceeds that of many of its regional contemporaries’. The team is especially active in Bournemouth’s tech sector and has taken on a number of new instructions from clients in the digital and creative tech sectors in 2017. ‘An excellent lawyer and skilled diplomat’, department head Tim Stone advised a Bournemouth-based e-learning company on the negotiation of an investment and subsequent establishment of a joint venture for the commercialisation of a potentially lucrative mobile app. In an illustration of the firm's aviation-sector expertise, the ‘proactive and commercially minded’ Nick Davies assisted the shareholders of a UK aerospace company with the sale of the group to a subsidiary of a US-based aircraft parts company. Paul Longland has a range of corporate and commercial experience and advised a UK property developer in the demerger of its investment property portfolio from its trading arm. Craig Hardman is another key figure in the department.

Laceys Solicitors incorporating HLF is highly regarded in the local market and is lauded by local and regional SMEs and growth companies as ‘one of the strongest corporate teams’ in Bournemouth, providing ‘exemplary customer service’ in complex corporate and commercial matters. The department is led by Sam Freeman, regarded by clients and peers alike as ‘a knowledgeable yet highly practical’ lawyer, who ‘approaches problems in a commercially astute manner’; Freeman has handled a number of corporate restructurings and share sales for UK companies looking to expand their domestic businesses. ‘A powerhouse corporate lawyer’, Natasha Duffy-Jones acted alongside Ella Gould for a UK aviation group in connection with the establishment of a certain business, which will employ a degree transatlantic operation; this is illustrative of the corporate department’s recent activity in the aviation sector. Moreover, the highly recommended Edwina Young assists an aerospace company with ongoing advice related to the research and development of aerospace technologies in the public sector. Victoria Boynes-Butler joined from Streathers in 2017.

Wilsons’ ‘balanced and measured approach’ is characteristic of the corporate partners’ ‘vast experience’, which for some includes years of practice at leading City firms. The team has historical strengths in tax and transaction structuring in the technology and charity sectors and was strengthened in 2017-2018 by a number of additions to the team. Of note, Philip Stephenson joined from Barlow Robbins LLP and was engaged by the main shareholders of CSI Group (with whom he had an extensive business relationship) to advise on the shareholders’ £36m exit transaction with a private equity-backed newco. Acting alongside Stephen Whitmore and Jonathan Stephens, Stephenson also assisted US-based Entrust Datacard on the UK aspects of its acquisition of Trustis. In the charity space, James Johnson acted for The Royal Marines Association in connection with its multimillion-pound merger with the The Royal Marines Charity. Senior corporate consultant Clare Charles joined the team from consultancy Bradbury Sheerin, while former Burges Salmon LLP senior associate Mark Cook joined in 2018.

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP provides clients in the telecoms and care home sectors with ‘very sensible advice at a good price’. Department head Neil Cook has ‘a good commercial background’ and has been involved on the sell-side of multiple share and asset sales across a number of industry sectors. Cook also handled a multimillion-pound corporate reorganisation for a company in the care home industry. Noted for his ‘clear and knowledgeable advice on commercial contracts’, Hugh Craig assisted a contractor with the licensing of custom software for use in airport terminals for booking private-hire cars. In 2017, employment specialist Kate Brooks was promoted to partner while Gustav Patrick took an in-house position.

Primarily acting for regional owner-managed businesses, Frettens LLP regularly handles M&A, corporate reorganisations and general commercial work for clients in the insurance, care home, manufacturing, engineering, and tech sectors. Matthew Fretten leads the team and assisted a property developer with a £25m refinancing and corporate restructuring matter following the sale of one of its business operations, which the team also handled. The name partner also leads ongoing strategic advice for a nationally recognised growth company in the tech sector. Associate Sarah Sillar assisted a company with the establishment of a tax-efficient employee share scheme, and also has experience of tax-efficient investment structures, such as seed enterprise investment schemes. Additionally, associate Karen Edwards was involved in a number of share transactions in 2017.

Trethowans established its Bournemouth-based corporate and commercial practice with the arrival Mark Nixon – ‘an intelligent and decisive’ corporate and M&A lawyer, who joined the firm from Blake Morgan LLP. Since joining the firm, Nixon advised the shareholders of iSupply Energy on the highly publicised sale of its entire issued share capital to Sweden-based Vattenfall. Similarly, Nixon assisted the shareholders of a local medical care business on the sale of its entire issued share capital to a French buyer. Further, Nixon often works alongside the firm’s Southampton-based corporate, employment and banking practitioners. Mike Watson heads the corporate group from the firm’s Southampton office, which also includes Nick Gent.

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