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15 September, 2016 - 15:03 By Tony Quested

Top law firms survive heavyweights KO

legal 500, cambridge

Two things are immediately obvious from this year’s Legal 500 Guide – firstly the Cambridge and East Anglia legal scenes have become stronger than they have ever been. Secondly, there is a hair’s breadth between the expertise on offer from the region’s leading practitioners.

The publisher of The Legal 500 took the decision this year not to try to rate plums against olives so has scrapped its regional heavyweights rankings. It retains its list of leading individuals within specialisms and its rankings of the best firms in tiers based on specific legal disciplines where they can be judged like for like.

The Legal 500 Guide lists 194 lawyers as East Anglian’s leading individuals. Mills & Reeve and Birketts together claim around 27 per cent of the pantheon.

Mills & Reeve boasts 27 leading individuals and Birketts 25. Their nearest rivals are Ashtons Legal with 14, Eversheds with 12, Hewitsons, Howes Percival and Taylor Vinters with nine apiece, Ipswich-based Gotelee with seven and Peterborough duo Buckles and Greenwoods with five each.

While it has scrapped its ‘Regional Heavyweights’ rankings, The Legal 500 has retained its system of placing the best law firms in tiers based on their expertise in different aspects of legal advice.

Mills & Reeve claims 30 number one slots in East Anglia compared to 28 by Birketts. They are streaks ahead of their closest competitors – Eversheds and Taylor Vinters – who each have 10 top tier positions.
Hewitsons claims nine number one rankings, Ashtons Legal eight, Howes Percival seven and Greenwoods six.

The expertise of East Anglia lawyers in the lucrative arena of IT and telecoms is world class. The Legal 500 Guide ranks Eversheds, Mills & Reeve and Taylor Vinters jointly in the top tier.

The burgeoning life science sector has driven many of the major deals in the Cambridge cluster in the last 12 months and multinational players have triggered massive growth in the region. The Legal 500 guide ranks Mills & Reeve and Taylor Wessing as joint top for Biotechnology advice.

Corporate & commercial work in Cambridge is a consistently accurate barometer of a law firm’s success and status. It is no coincidence that three firms with established international profiles are rated joint number ones by The Legal 500 Guide.

The top trio, listed alphabetically as dictated by the guide’s style, are Eversheds, Mills & Reeve and Taylor Vinters. Birketts, Hewitsons and Taylor Wessing share second tier rankings. The cranes over Cambridge are a towering endorsement of the infrastructure improvements and commercial and residential development on a scale never before seen locally. Eversheds and Mills & Reeve are rated joint top for Commercial property work in Cambridge.

Birketts reigns supreme as standalone top tier firm in Ipswich and shares top tier status in Norwich with Howes Percival and Mills & Reeve.

Buckles, Greenwoods and Hunt & Coombs are top tier rated for commercial property work in Peterborough while Ashtons Legal shares a top tier ranking for firms based elsewhere in East Anglia.
Fenners Chambers arguably represents the greatest success story in the entire East of England legal annals.

The bar is one area of the law in the current guide where The Legal 500 feels it acceptable to make a clear differential between the very best and the rest.

Fenners Chambers in Cambridge is the only local set to make the joint number one slot. In a fiercely contested South Eastern Circuit, the firm glories in top spot alongside two other leading UK chambers, both of the them based in Sussex – Crown Office Row (Brighton) and Pallant Chambers (Chichester).

The Legal 500 notes that: “Fenners Chambers has experts in specialist areas such as bankruptcy, aviation and shipping. Araba Taylor is particularly well known for her family business practice and Chancery work.” The firm has a substantial number of leading silks and junior barristers.

Cambridge has become a hotbed of professional firms adept at helping companies in all business sectors leverage and protect their brand in increasingly international – and intensely competitive – markets.
The arrival in February of JA Kemp added to that pool of expertise and means Cambridge now has arguably the best pool of patent and TM attorneys outside of London.

The Legal 500 Guide has retained its ranking system for Patent and Trade mark attorneys and Cambridge’s best do well. Listed alphabetically, Boult Wade Tennant, JA Kemp, Marks & Clerk, Mathys & Squire and Mewburn Ellis of the South East firms with Cambridge offices are all rated in the guide’s top tier for patent attorneys.

In its ratings for Trade mark attorneys, the guide has Boult Wade Tennant, JA Kemp, Marks & Clerk and Stobbs IP in Cambridge among the top tier while Mathys & Squire, Mewburn Ellis and Reddie & Grose in Cambridge take second tier ratings.

For a full breakdown of all the Legal 500 guide’s rankings and assessments of law firms and solicitors in East Anglia, go to

 Business Weekly’s Law Lords supplement on the guide and the strength of the region’s legal profession will be published in the newspaper's digital edition after 4pm, September 15, 2016 at 

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