Top private client team in surprise move from Osborne Clarke to Bond Dickinson

October 25, 2013

Two of Bristol’s most respected private client lawyers have quit city legal heavyweight Osborne Clarke to join smaller rival Bond Dickinson, taking their teams with them.

The surprise departure of high-profile private client and charity law partner Mark Woodward and property partner Robert Drewett – plus their associated teams – is one of the biggest moves of its type in Bristol legal circles for several years.

It follows the decision by Osborne Clarke’s private client practice head Sandra Brown’s to leave for Michelmores in May.

The departures have led Osborne Clarke – one of Bristol’s Big Two firms – to make what one commentator described as a ‘bold restructuring’ of its private client division into a smaller team focussing on high net worth entrepreneurs and executives.

It is understood that pensions partner and board member Paul Matthews will oversee the process. It is expected the firm will hire at least one new partner to head the team.

Robert Drewett, pictured above, who joined Osborne Clarke 22 years ago, has acted for many of Bristol’s oldest and wealthiest landowning families on all aspects of property ownership, including many Merchant Venturers. He also acts for a number of charities. His clients include The Co-operative Farms, which farms around 50,000 acres of land in England and Scotland

Mark Woodward, pictured below, joined Osborne Clarke from Beachcroft Wansbrough in 1999. He has extensive expertise in providing advice on wills, trusts, tax and general private client work. He also also acts for institutional clients such as Coutts, Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest Private Banking.

Among the high-profile cases his team has dealt with was the estate of the late Lord Wraxall, which involved the sale of stately home Tyntesfield to the National Trust.

Bond Dickinson’s head of private wealth David Dale said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to significantly expand our wealth management expertise with the acquisition of a superb team with an excellent track record and reputation in the market place.  This move will further enable us to service our clients in the South West, and we are delighted to welcome the team to the firm.”

Bond Dickinson has one of the UK’s largest private wealth practices. The new arrivals will be based in its Bristol and London offices working on all aspects of private client work including wills, trusts, inheritance tax, estate planning and philanthropy. The team advises business owners, entrepreneurs and landowners as well as institutional trust and estate service providers and charities.

The team was recently named Private Client Firm of the Year (Regional) in The Legal 500 UK Awards and one of Private Client Practitioner’s Top 25 Law Firms.

Earlier this month Christopher Kerr-Smiley, an sssociate director at Osborne Clarke, also made the short trip across the road at Temple Quay to join Bond Dickinson as a director.

Bond Dickinson was formed from the merger of South West firm Bond Pearce and Newcastle-based Dickinson Dees in May this year to produce a £110m firm.

The shake-up at Osborne Clarke resulting from the departures coincides with a far wider repositioning exercise at the firm to focus the firm on a smaller number of key growth sectors while also strengthening its growing operations in Europe and the Far East. More details will emerge over the coming weeks, the firm said.

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