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The South West fills a unique position in the UK’s legal market. It is home to some of the country’s largest consumer goods retailers such as Superdry and Dyson; it acts as a conduit to Wales, particularly in the energy and infrastructure space; it is an increasingly popular market for insurers and other financial services companies; and, with its relatively vibrant technology and media industries, it has become an increasingly popular region for foreign investment. Despite the relative uncertainty in the run-up to the one-year anniversary of the Brexit referendum, firms have noted that rather than stifiling the region’s corporate activity, the subsequent drop in sterling has facilitated a slew of business and asset transactions involving foreign purchasers.

Considered by some as the UK’s second-city for legal work, Bristol not only serves as a hub for many South West-based firms, but has also been a popular location for national firms seeking to keep their costs competitive for certain legal services. Indeed, Clyde & Co LLP is only the most recent City firm to establish a base in Bristol. Similarly, several regional firms have continued to carve out a substantial presence in Bristol. Foot Anstey has recently bolstered its Bristol-based corporate and insolvency teams, while Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP’s head of litigation moved to the firm’s Bristol office from Plymouth. Also of note, within the space of a week in January 2018, Metcalfes Solicitors purchased Burroughs Day out of administration and was then, itself, taken over by London-based Gordon Dadds LLP – another potential London foothole in the burgeoning Bristol market. Any relative new-comers, however, will find tough competition from firms with long-established and well-respected Bristol bases, such as Burges Salmon LLP, Osborne Clarke, DAC Beachcroft LLP, TLT, VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards), Bevan Brittan LLP, and Clarke Willmott LLP.

Bournemouth is the locus of commercial activity in Dorset and South Wiltshire. The market has historically been dominated by Steele Raymond LLP and Lester Aldridge LLP, though Laceys Solicitors incorporating HLF has a growing corporate and real estate group and Trethowans LLP has also established a corporate and commercial office in Bournemouth. Additionally, Wilsons has a formidable private client offering in Salisbury.

The West Country stretches from Exeter to Plymouth and contains firms that have especially impressive international capabilities, while still remaining intimate enough to service the predominantly SME and owner-managed corporate client base. Michelmores LLP, Ashfords LLP, and Stephens Scown LLP are among the area’s stand-out full-service firms, while OTB Eveling is a highly regarded specialist corporate group.

The M4 corridor and Gloucestershire rounds out the South West region. Here, the three main commercial centres are Cheltenham, Swindon, and Bath. Cheltenham is home to local heavyweights BPE Solicitors LLP and Willans LLP, and also hosts an impressive corporate and real estate team at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP and Harrison Clark Rickerbys, whose service extends into the Midlands. Stone King LLP and Royds Withy King provide impressive service from Bath, while Thrings LLP has strong teams in Swindon, Bath and Bristol.

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