The economy is, at last, slowing down. The implications of the currency crisis in Asia are beginning to be felt and the Bank of England has lowered interest rates in response to deteriorating markets. The media is rife with speculation about the inevitability of recession, and companies and firms providing services to the insolvency sector are gearing up in preparation.
The legal profession is no exception. Having learned from the last downturn, many insolvency lawyers have been building their departments in anticipation of the increase in restructuring and insolvency work. Meanwhile, the market remains competitive with firms fiercely protective of their own client bases.
Here, The Legal 500 analyses leading insolvency firms across the country.
What sets these legal practices apart is their ability to provide specialist knowledge and skills – often not just in the UK – together with a detailed understanding of the market in which they operate. The firms listed in the table do not cover all practices which advise in this area, but they do represent independent recommendations based on extensive research.
The leading London firm for insolvency work is Allen & Overy. Partner Gordon Stewart, past president of the Society of Insolvency Practitioners, has a reputation as one of the leading lights in this field; he is supported by a strong team of ten partners and 12 assistants.
The firm remains active on the receivership of Leyland DAF Finance as well as acting for the liquidators in the high-profile Facia Group liquidation.
Providing strong competition for Allen & Overy are Lovell White Durrant and Wilde Sapte.
Lovell White Durrant faces a double blow this year as head of insolvency, partner Peter Horrocks, and fellow partner Tim Olsen are retiring. Nonetheless, the firm’s remaining 13 partners and 17 assistants provide a range of expertise, depth and international strength that challenges Allen & Overy’s pole position. Clients include Deloitte & Touche, the administrative receivers of Yorkshire Food Group, which had a bank debt of over #74m.
A firm close to Lovell White Durrant, although weaker on the international side, is Wilde Sapte. Much in the public eye as a result of the failed merger with Arthur Andersen, the firm retains a highly regarded insolvency team which would doubtless have been very attractive to the accountants had the merger succeeded.
Partner Mark Andrews has an excellent reputation and heads a team of 15 partners and 27 assistants. High-profile work has included the administrations of the Facia Footware Group, Leyland DAF, Resort Hotels and Dunn & Co.
Clifford Chance lost three leading insolvency partners which affected the firm’s position in the insolvency market. Sandy Shandro joined Freshfields, Andrew Wilkinson moved to Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and former head of department Ashley Booker left in March. That said, the firm maintains a steady flow of quality work including acting as liquidator to the Prestige Group, as well as advising on the restructuring of Wace, Costain and Jacques Vert.
External market forces
Opinions differ on the impact of US firms on the UK market. Insolvency is one area, however, where two US firms are visible and active. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft recruited partners Andrew Wilkinson from Clifford Chance and James Roome from Simmons & Simmons and aims to compete for the same work as UK firms. Weil, Gotshal & Manges is also making an impact.
The insolvency market in Yorkshire and the North-West of England is dominated by Dibb Lupton Alsop.
In Manchester, the large department is headed by well-regarded partner Peter Manning and the client list includes all the leading accountancy firms plus Barclays, the Co-operative Bank, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland.
The firm has been acting for Pannell Kerr Forster on the receivership of Genesis Fast Foods, with an asset value of approximately #5m.
In Leeds, Mark Jackson and Peter Cranston are acknowledged leaders in insolvency work. The firm is unique in being retained by the Directors Disqualification Unit of the Department of Trade and Industry for Yorkshire and Humberside. In 1997, the firm acted for BDO Stoy Hayward in the #44m receivership of a large commercial property portfolio – one of the largest receiverships of that year.
The firm also acted for Grant Thornton in the Craven Fawcett Group administrative receivership, and for Coopers & Lybrand in various matters.
Clients in the South-West have three leading firms to choose from. Bond Pearce, where Victor Tettmar is well respected, has been instructed by all the major accountancy firms, the DTI and financial institutions. Osborne Clarke acted for Lloyds TSB Bank and Andersens over Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic Football Club Company Ltd. At Burges Salmon, managing partner Guy Stobart heads the insolvency team, which has been instructed by Lloyds TSB Group, UCB Bank, Cheltenham & Gloucester building society and the major accountants.
Eversheds and Wragge & Co lead the competition in Birmingham. Eversheds acts for the insolvency partners at KPMG, Price Waterhouse, Coopers, Ernst & Young, as well as all the major banks. Last year saw the firm act for PW on the Jacques Marisa receivership. Wragge & Co’s 14 fee-earner team continues to act for Andersens, Coopers, Deloittes, PW, KPMG, DTI and the Official Receiver.
The 1998 edition of The Legal 500: the Clients’ Guide to UK law firms is published by Legalease, price #95. Theresa Sandon is the London editor of The Legal 500
LEGAL 500 INSOLVENCY RECOMMENDATIONS Market leaders Recommended LONDON Allen & Overy Clifford Chance Lovell White Durrant Denton Hall Wilde Sapte Linklaters Cameron McKenna Nabarro Nathanson Norton Rose Simmons & Simmons Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft Dibb Lupton Alsop Freshfields Hammond Suddards Herbert Smith Slaughter and May Ashurst Morris Crisp Baker & McKenzie Berwin Leighton D J Freeman Lawrence Graham Richards Butler Rowe & Maw Stephenson Harwood Theodore Goddard Travers Smith Braithwaite Weil, Gotshal & Manges MANCHESTER Dibb Lupton Alsop Davies Arnold Cooper Addleshaw Booth & Co Eversheds Slater Heelis Hammond Suddards Davies Wallis Foyster Halliwell Landua YORKSHIRE AND HUMBER Dibb Lupton Alsop, Leeds Walker Morris, Leeds Addleshaw Booth & Co, Leeds Hammond Suddards, Leeds Pinsent Curtis, Leeds Carrick Read Insolvency, Leeds Hartley Linfoot & Whitlam, Sheffield Lupton Fawcett, Harrogate Brooke North, Leeds Eversheds, Leeds Irwin Mitchell, Sheffield SOUTH WEST Bond Pearce, Plymouth Anstey Sargent & Probert, Exeter Burges Salmon, Bristol Bevan Ashford, Bristol Osborne Clarke, Bristol Cameron McKenna, Bristol Clarke Willmott & Clarke, Taunton Lawrence Tucketts, Bristol Laytons, Bristol Lester Aldridge, Bournemouth Stephens & Scown, Exeter, St Austell, Truro Trumps, Bristol Veale Wasbrough, Bristol Wansbroughs Willey Hargrave, Bristol WEST MIDLANDS Eversheds, Birmingham Martineau Johnson, Birmingham Wragge & Co, Birmingham Pinsent Curtis, Birmingham Dibb Lupton Alsop, Birmingham Gateley Wareing, Birmingham Edge & Ellison, Birmingham Herbert Wilkes, Birmingham Irwin Mitchell, Birmingham Knight & Sons, Newcastle under Lyme Brindley Twist Tafft & James, Coventry Lee Crowder, Birmingham Whatley Weston & Fox, Worcester
Firms are listed in groups in order of merit, and alphabetically within groups
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