Firm sets standard on national stage

WATSON Burton has this year had its best Legal 500 results.

WATSON Burton has this year had its best Legal 500 results. It tops the leagues with more departments than ever before and has seen other disciplines move up at least one tier in highly competitive areas.

CONSTRUCTION

Clients praise the “top of the range” Watson Burton construction practice, which is alone in first place for the fifth year running in the North of England. Legal 500 singles out head of department Rob Langley for praise, as well as partners Mark Lawton and Roddy Gordon, “two of the best-known construction lawyers in the North East”.

Watson Burton opened an office in London last year with a strong focus on construction, international engineering and insurance work because of the growing number of national clients advised by the construction practice. The practice is building strongly, with partners Lawrence Bruce and Olivia Bateman joining the team during the past year.

Legal 500 underlines the national reach of construction law at Watson Burton, and the practice’s strategy of strengthening non-contentious work to balance its established ability in disputes.

Rob Langley said: “The quality of work we have won, and number of successful results completed by Watson Burton this year, justifies our place at the top of the league. We have the expertise, resources and determination to drive the department forward regionally and nationally.”

CORPORATE

The thriving corporate department dramatically boosted its transactions value last year to more than £1.8bn. Head of department Gillian Hall has spearheaded major deals throughout the country, and Legal 500 states that she was “instrumental in the firm being one of only five firms nationwide to be appointed to the panel of The Co-operative Group and Co-operative Financial Services (CFS) for commercial legal services”.

Gillian Hall said: “This has been an excellent year, in which we have significantly boosted our number of clients and deals completed. Watson Burton now has one of the strongest departments in the North of England, with a first-class team of partners skilled in every aspect of corporate and commercial law.”

With a major increase in the quality and quantity of deals done, a strengthened national presence through the firm’s Leeds and London offices, and continuing recruitment of experienced senior fee-earners, Watson Burton’s corporate team continues to drive forward in the North.

The Leeds corporate team, with highly respected partners Lester Wilson, Andrew Walker and Martin Smith, completed a series of major deals this year, including the £940m Countrywide transaction. The team has won 10 plc companies as part of its growing list of national and international clients. The Newcastle corporate team led by Gillian Hall has recently completed the £57.5m acquisition of Pips Technology for top US client Federal Signal.

With a major increase in the quality and quantity of deals done, a strengthened national presence through the firm’s new London office and continuing recruitment of experienced senior fee-earners, Watson Burton’s corporate team continues to drive forward in the North of England.

EMPLOYMENT

The employment law practice, headed by John McMullen – “one of the country’s highest-profile employment lawyers and a leading expert on TUPE” – has enjoyed one of its busiest years. The five-partner “formidable team” includes new pensions partner Robert O’Donovan, the “respected” Allan Henderson, together with Chris Graham and Paul McGowan. The Watson Burton employment team is fast establishing itself as the highest-profile team in the North, with an increasing national profile.

Clients have particularly praised Dr McMullen. Legal directories quote him as “the leading practitioner in the region”, “the King of TUPE” and “the man for high-value matters”, who “sets the standard for other employment lawyers”.

New clients include Kemira Chemicals, Corgi Inc, Yorkshire Building Society, the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, the British Security Industry Association and North-East-based charity Disc.

The employment team, which advises the universities of Sunderland and Northumbria, extended its education client portfolio to include City University, the University of the Arts and the Russell Group of Universities.

Dr McMullen said: “We have had a strong, busy year, which has brought rewarding results for our clients and opened up new opportunities for the team.

“Next year will be even busier and we have the strength and depth to grow in client numbers, geographical spread and national reputation.”

FULL SERVICE

Watson Burton’s first-class teams in commercial property, insolvency, professional indemnity, education, private client, family, sport, IP and IT, public sector, media and entertainment, licensing, charities, banking and finance, energy, environment, planning, property litigation and debt recovery are also highly recommended by Legal 500.

Senior partner Rob Langley said: “It is rewarding to have the excellence of our staff and services recognised by a respected national publication. We have grown significantly in recent years, but commitment to high standards of client care remains our top priority.”

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