Legal Review: Overview of the Bristol market

September 20, 2012

Legal 500, the sector’s ‘bible’, says among notable developments over the past year in the region, Pinsent Masons closed its Bristol office, while the leading members of CMS Cameron McKenna’s professional negligence team moved over to RPC, giving the latter a presence in the region.

London firm Simmons & Simmons has announced its plans to open a Bristol.

Of the ‘big two’ Bristol firms, Burges Salmon maintained a strong offering across all sectors and a nationally-recognised corporate practice.

Other defining features at the firm include its strength in the energy and nuclear fields.

It made up eight new partners and strengthened through lateral hires, including Matthew O’Regan in EU and competition from London firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Mark Gay in the sport practice from DLA Piper.

The other leading firm in the region, Osborne Clarke, continued its leading expertise in corporate and real estate and grew in sectors such as natural resources and digital sectors.

The firm’s international reach – it has offices in the US and Germany – gives it an extra dimension and is a distinguishing feature in the regional market.

TLT continues to challenge these two and is described by Legal 500 as “having a strong presence in the region, with traction in the market and an evident hunger for expansion”.

Its strengths include corporate and commercial, real estate, professional negligence, IT/IP and licensing. The firm has recently launched operations in Scotland via a merger with Anderson Fyfe and also in Northern Ireland.

Ashfords’ merger with London-based Rochman Landau is “evidence of its continuing expansion plans and comes in the wake of its steady movement up the South West peninsular from Exeter. It has a broad offering and is highly regarded across the market” says Legal 500.

As the other half of the former Bevan Ashford, Bevan Brittan’s strategic focus is on its traditional core area of the public sector and public services. It is renowned for its local government and project development expertise, and Legal 500 says it “has shown confidence in devoting itself wholly to the public sector in the face of extensive tightening of budgets”.

Bond Pearce, which recently confirmed merger talks with Newcastle firm Dickinson Dees, has strength in areas such as energy, real estate, retail and financial services. Offshore wind has been a particularly important source of work, and the firm is able to leverage its renowned Aberdeen-based team in energy and renewables.

DAC Beachcroft’s merger “strengthened its position in the local market and has reinforced its insurance and personal injury expertise”.

Clarke Willmott is said to have regrouped following past troubles. It grew with several lateral hires, including Peter O’Brien from Osborne Clarke. CW’s traditional strengths

include agriculture and estates and private client.

Foot Anstey, a regional firm with a national reputation in media, followed the example of several Exeter firms and joined the big boys in Bristol by opening an office in the city. However, Legal 500 says “its broad practice is admired but, in a flat market, it remains to be seen how the new office will fare in an already crowded city.

Thrings, with offices in Swindon, Bath and London as well as Bristol, has “formidable expertise and coverage along the M4 corridor and has seen growth in insolvency and

commercial litigation”. Veale Wasbrough Vizards is a “dependable firm with longstanding expertise in education, general commercial and health matters for regional SME clients”.

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