Rivalry keeps the future bright

Oct 08, 2007

The city alone has more than £1 billion of inward investment committed to it. Merger and acquisition and corporate activity is on the increase and scores of major businesses are choosing to base themselves in the area.

Indeed, the sub-region that includes Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire is a microcosm of the entire South East region, according to the Legal 500 guide. "The future looks bright," it adds.

"The South East makes a major contribution to the UK economy. While it relies on its economic relationship with London, there is significant economic activity within the region itself – homegrown businesses are outwardly expansive and external investment is pouring in.

"Quality lawyers are increasingly being drawn away from London, often for lifestyle reasons. Meanwhile, clients are increasingly attracted to South East firms by the offer of quality advice at a (usually) lower cost than London."

Law firms in Milton Keynes reflect this trend, says the guide, with many of the region’s leading practices being based in the region.

Shoosmiths and Howes Percival – both based in Central Milton Keynes – and Taylor Walton, whose head office is in Luton, are named among the regional ‘heavyweight’ firms in this year’s guide.

Shoosmiths has a fine reputation for its corporate, employment, intellectual property and information technology expertise, while Howes Percival has a "strong" corporate practice and is "known for its ability to handle intricate business transactions." Taylor Walton is described as a "premier firm".

Other Milton Keynes-based firms also rate highly in this year’s guide. Denton Wilde Sapte is a leading player in litigation, property, banking and construction, while emw law "is now one of the most sought-after firms between London and Birmingham for commercial advice."

Matthew Arnold & Baldwin has expanded its presence in the region with the opening last year of its Central Milton Keynes office, while Kimbells has an impeccable pedigree in employment and its corporate offering, says the guide.

While these firms feature regularly in the Legal 500, this year’s guide sees the prominent arrival of two other local firms: Geoffrey Leaver and Dunham Solicitors.

Geoffrey Leaver is one of the firms which benefited from the dissolution last year of Fennemores, recruiting several of the latter’s lawyers as part of its expansion programme. The firm has doubled the size of both its commercial litigation and property practices, the guide observes.

Dunham Solicitors has become "a noted regional player" and is continuing its rapid expansion. The firm, based in Stratford Office Village at Wolverton Mill, also has offices in Portman Square, in London’s West End, has recruited former Shosmiths associates Gary Smith and Keith Lewington as partners and is continuing its recruitment drive.

Senior partner Dean Dunham (pictured) said: "We are now entering a year of rapid growth in all areas. We are now actively recruiting in all areas. All areas within the firm will continue to grow and our aim is to double in size within the next 12 months."

With qualifications in both the UK and USA, Mr Dunham advises on numerous American-based transactions and the firm is described as "commercially aware" in its employment work.

Milton Keynes firms make up the bulk of the leading corporate and commercial players, with emw law, Howes Percival, Kimbells, Shoosmiths and Matthew Arnold & Baldwin rated in the top tier and both Dunham Solicitors and Taylor Walton improving their ratings on the 2006 guide.

The expertise of the same firms extends to commercial litigation work, says the Legal 500, while Taylor Walton, Shoosmiths, Kimbells and emw law fill the top grade in the employment rankings for the Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex sub-region.

The Legal 500 also notes the "small but rapidly developing" employment unit at Denton Wilde Sapte, headed by Simon Whysall, and the employer and senior management expertise at Dunham Solicitors under Fiona Hewitt.

Commercial property remains a major specialism for Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire firms, with Denton Wilde Sapte, emw law and Taylor Walton among the leading practices and Kimbells and Geoffrey Leaver also rated highly.

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