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Entrepreneurs Panel

Richard O'Sullivan
Steve Purdham
Tony Caldeira
Charlie Mullins
David Pollock
Debbie Pierce
Laura Tenison
Brian Hay
Julie Meyer
Jennie Johnson
Jeremy Roberts
Michael Oliver

Analysis

For the 23rd year publisher Legalease has produced its UK Legal 500 – a publication that, as the name suggests, identifies the country’s top 500 law firms. It then subdivides these into regions (identifying the best all-rounders as ”Regional Heavyweights”) and specialisations – further dividing them into tiers according to their expertise and market strength within each of those specialities.

New legislation is blowing the chill wind of austerity over corporate Christmas gifts, according to PwC Forensic Services. The Bribery Act 2010, due to come into force next April contains radical changes which could have a significant impact on corporate gifts to customers and clients, and which could lead to severe penalties for companies who don’t play by the rules.

In what has been a better year than last (though that’s not saying much) for deals, Addleshaw Goddard built on its 2009 work on the Co-op/Somerfield acquisition with the disposal of 200 of the merged operation’s stores and, outside the region, three substantial acquisitions for Capita.

DLA Piper’s Jonathan Watkins, meanwhile, led on Dave Whelan Sports’ £85m acquisition of the leisure division of JJB Sports, and Keith Froud at Eversheds advised the extremely active Daisy Communications on a £200 million reverse into Freedom 4 Group.

In Liverpool, meanwhile, Brabners Chaffe Street was appointed sole legal advisor to Peel Ports.

All in all, though, a fair bit of movement up and down tiers compared to 2009 – with “other North West” in particular seeing what was a healthy “tier one” stripped down to just three firms – only one of which is headquartered outside the two big cities rather than being a satellite office.

Not as high-profile as some other areas of law, but a significant component of many deals and investments – and certainly not something you’d want to get wrong.

It’s been an exciting year for the EU, economically. “Exciting” as in terrifying – but growth appears to have set in lately and, with it, trade and investment opportunities. Planning to take advantage of them? Or to get involved in a merger that might change the competitive landscape significantly? Then you’ll be needing advice – and here are the firms the Legal 500 identifies as the region’s strongest in the field.

The licensed trade has seen some major upheavals over the last couple of years, including the high-profile distressed sales of a number of pub estates. If you’re thinking of taking advantage of the market turmoil to get into the leisure business, amongst Legal 500-listed firms in the North West, those below are identified as the best – bar none.

The course of business doesn’t always run smooth. And, when it doesn’t, there can be few more satisfying thoughts than dragging your opponent through the courts and being granted punitive damages. In this day and age, however, the talk is all of “dispute resolution” – which, though perhaps less satisfying than having your day in court, is likely to cost everyone a lot less in the long run. Either way, and whatever side of a lawsuit you find yourself on, the firms below are the Legal 500’s top players. Just hope you don’t receive an unexpected letter on their headed notepaper.

These days many of the firms below are as likely to be found working for invoice factors (boo, hiss) as for entrepreneurs. But if you’re owed money and want to get it paid before the liquidators move in and take their cut, you may want to give them a call.

The insolvency practitioners were rubbing their hands as the recession began but, as yet, the boom for which they have been waiting has yet to materialise. The word is that this will change as the recovery sets in and banks, the Inland Revenue and corporate creditors feel more confident about cutting their losses and acting against debtor companies. Below are the region’s firms that the Legal 500 identifies as being strongest in this area.

Whether it’s product designs, “creative” content, software code or just a website or logo, the chances are your business owns some kind of intellectual property. If you need to defend it – or find yourself on the wrong end of someone who thinks you have infringed theirs – the Legal 500 reckons you won’t go far wrong with the law firms below.

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Five Minutes With

David Hughes sums up his entrepreneurial career to date thus: four spectacular successes and two failures. He founded the sports retailer Allsports and achieved turnover of £180 million before a vicious price war meant decline, administration in 2005 and a sell-off to rival JD Sports.

It took Richard Shonn, managing director of 151 Products, three years to find a warehouse big enough for his requirements.