Latest Legal 500 shows strong growth for Bristol’s high-flying law firms

October 2, 2014

Bristol’s legal market is enjoying a strong recovery as business confidence returns to the South West, according to the annual Legal 500 guide.

The respected publication, which identifies the UK’s best-performing legal firms and individuals, once again highlights the strength of Bristol’s legal market and its key players.

The city continues to dominate the South West’s legal market, with its major firms making up the overwhelming majority of the rankings for ‘regional heavyweights’.

Mergers and acquisitions have not featured as strongly as in recent years.

The city’s ‘big two’ of Osborne Clarke and Burges Salmon continue to grow while challenger TLT has also expanded into a truly national firm.

The Legal 500 describes Burges Salmon, under managing partner Peter Morris, as ‘a leading firm in the region’, and says it ‘compares favourably with international firms’. Its sector strengths include energy, where it has been working on large-scale and high-profile projects for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority; transport, with Eurostar a key client; financial services; and infrastructure. The firm made four partner promotions in 2013 and moved its London office to larger premises.

Osborne Clarke is described as a ‘go-to firm’ and is praised for its ‘excellent sector knowledge’ and ‘broad expertise’, and continues its international expansion with new offices in Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam. It figures prominently in real estate, corporate and technology matters, and has recently shifted in its approach to private client services to focus on advice to high-net-worth individuals.

TLT’s growth continued in 2013 with the opening of a new Manchester office, expanding its impressive national reach. Its ‘comprehensive range of support’ and ‘excellent service levels’ are such that clients ‘have no hesitation in recommending it, particularly to in-house counsel’. Its key clients include The Co-operative Group, WHSmith, and Merlin Entertainments.

Ashfords operates at a very high level of service, knowledge and efficiency’. The firm’s reach across the region, with an additional office in London, stands out, as does the breadth of its expertise; it has highly-regarded experts in areas such as project finance, commercial property and local government.

Bevan Brittan is the region’s pre-eminent public sector firm, according to the Legal 500, delivering a comprehensive service to local authorities, NHS trusts, housing associations and other public bodies. The firm is also increasingly advising private suppliers as the outsourcing of government services continues.

Looking at the wider South West market, the Legal 500 says: “There was an uptick in activity in key practice areas, with an increase in residential property development projects a particular highlight for real estate departments.

“The renewable energy market remains strong in the South West, and a number of significant new projects are planned.

“The change in employment tribunal fees resulted in a considerable drop in claims, and pushed law firms towards more complex employment disputes and advisory work.

“In personal injury, firms saw fewer low-value public liability cases being brought in the post-Jackson era, as the impact of the reforms and the banning of referral fees continued to be felt.”

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