Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Legal 500: The top legal teams in construction

When the worst happens or you need to lay down the law, its good to know who to have on your side. So Contract Journal has teamed up with Legalease to publish its Legal 500, an authoritative listing of the country's top law firms.

Legal 500: The top legal teams in construction

As payment becomes harder to secure and the minutae of every contract is pored over, it is more essential than ever to know where to turn for the right legal advice. For an exhaustive take on what expertise is available this year's Legal 500 includes both construction legal firms and broader practices that serve the industry in a variety of disciplines.

The firms featured serve both contractors in contentious cases and front end advice for developers. The details include some of the more high profile cases a legal firm has been involved in and who are considered the star performers at the practice.


Legal 500: The top legal teams in construction


When reviewing a firm, the Legal 500 researchers consider a combination of size and strength in depth. Their investigations include both qualitative and quantitative analysis, how presitigious a firm's client base is, its market share, reputation and perception in the market. They interview members of the firm, its clients and its piers to form a snapshot of the operation.

This results in a list of 54 law firms separated into five tiers, listed in alphabetical order.

Tier one


Ashurst's practice head Marc Hanson is driving forward a 'responsive' team, in which rising star Alex Cunliffe has been promoted to partner. Cunliffe advised on Westfield's ВЈ2bn Stratford City development, while other major civil engineering and development instructions included advising Crossrail on procurement for its ВЈ16bn project, as well as representing the Connect Plus consortium as preferred bidder for the M25 widening project.

Berwin Leighton Paisner's

Berwin Leighton Paisner's construction team provides 'sound advice based on exemplary knowledge', service levels that are 'beyond reproach'. The firm is reputed for its strength in real estate, but also won significant infrastructure appointments from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and National Grid, as well as Thames Water, which the firm is advising on construction and procurement for the ВЈ2.4bn Tideway Tunnel project. Group head Bob Maynard is a 'knowledgeable and gritty fighter', while Caroline Pope has an 'ability to deliver solutions', and Stella Mitchell is 'excellent'.

Pinsent Masons

Pinsent Masons' 'cradle-to-grave expertise is its ultimate strength', say clients, who praise the firm for work that is generally 'superior to work received from other firms'. Headed by London-based John Salway, 'an unfussy businessman who understands what the client needs and requires', the firm's increasingly high-end construction practice spans a broad range of transactional, project advisory and disputes work, both domestically and internationally. The team is advising Thames Water on procurement for a ВЈ5bn asset management programme, and has recently attracted big-ticket international arbitration work out of the Persian Gulf.

Tier two

CMS Cameron McKenna

Caroline Cummins heads CMS Cameron McKenna's team, which is deemed 'excellent on all counts'. Non-contentious lawyer Victoria Peckett 'provides unparalleled, prompt and commercially aware advice', and ex-barrister Rupert Choat is 'very bright and patient'. An expanding international portfolio includes fresh instructions from Iberdrola and a heavyweight Japanese contractor. The practice remains a strong choice for disputes, with clients including Honeywell.

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance advises on complex engineering projects, primarily for sponsors, developers and funders. Recent instructions include advising Petroperu SA on a ВЈ727m Peruvian refinery modernisation, and representing the developer on the ВЈ1.75bn redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks. Practice head Tim Steadman is 'in a class of his own', while lateral hire Tracy London from Herbert Smith adds expertise in energy and renewables. Clients say 'you get what you pay for', with quality offsetting higher rates.

Fenwick Elliott

Fenwick Elliott handles the full range of construction work, but primarily acts on high-calibre contentious matters, particularly for contractors, and is increasingly international in scope. Simon Tolson's team regularly advises on arbitrations, such as for BOTAS Petroleum Pipeline Corporation in an ICC arbitration relating to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline construction. The domestic market malaise is resulting in a growing body of adjudication work.

Herbert Smith

Mark Lloyd-Williams became head of Herbert Smith's contentious construction practice after returning from Asia. His group is 'extremely responsive and very well qualified in terms of legal knowledge', and includes 'excellent litigator' Tony Dymond. Clients include Halliburton, Land Securities and Vestas. The team recently advised Hammerson on its ВЈ1bn redevelopment of Sevenstone, a retail quarter in Sheffield.


Gillian Thomas and John Gerszt's team at Lovells targets high-end projects and high-value disputes, and regularly attracts standalone work. The firm advised Dubai Ports World on the ВЈ1.5bn development of the London Gateway port project in Thurrock, and Rio Tinto on the proposed expansion of the CorumbГЎ mine in Brazil, a projected ВЈ1.2bn undertaking spanning three jurisdictions.

Mayer Brown International

Mayer Brown International's reputation for contentious work under practice head Michael Regan has yielded repeat business. Recent highlights include a case for an insurer and developer in relation to ВЈ150m-worth of claims over defects in the design and construction of a retail-centre car park. Regan remains lead procurement counsel to the Panama Canal Authority regarding its planned eight-year ВЈ3.15bn extension programme. Clients are 'very satisfied' with the firm's 'high level of service' and 'commercial realism'.


Nabarro's practice is managed by well-known industry personality Terry Fleet, and is particularly recommended for large-scale developments. Its team is 'responsive, capable and diligent'. Recent highlights include advising Minerva and European Land on sizeable London projects, as well as Brookfield on the Pinnacle. A drive to expand abroad has netted instructions from Dorchester Group (Slovakia) on a multi-building skyscraper scheme near Bratislava. Steven Williams is engaged in some of the UK's largest disputes, and is 'pragmatic, hardworking and client-focused'.


'One of the best in the industry', Shadbolt has a strong non-contentious record alongside its more traditional focus on contentious matters. It recently advised German energy contractor MAN Ferrostaal on a £424m natural gas power plant in Trinidad. The economic downturn has resulted in more adjudication cases to add to a regular caseload of ICC arbitrations. Disputes partner Simon Delves† leads a 'user-friendly practice'. Regular clients include Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Galliford Try.

Tier three

Addleshaw Goddard

Addleshaw Goddard's London-based construction front man Andrew McVeigh was elevated to the partnership in 2009. With firm-wide strength in public-sector projects, including health and education, McVeigh assisted on the landmark ВЈ700m Greater Manchester Waste PFI. Close banking relationships are resulting in work relating to the restructuring or 'mothballing' of construction projects.

DLA Piper

The 'thoroughly dependable' DLA Piper is rising to prominence on infrastructure projects. It advised the ODA on Olympic venues, and Powerfuel Power on a new ВЈ1.8bn coal-fired power station in Yorkshire. The diverse practice has notable expertise in public procurement, real estate and hotel development advice, and earned a spot on the ODA's disputes panel.

Davies Arnold Cooper

Davies Arnold Cooper's contentious offering is proving the mainstay of its practice in the current market. Major US contractors Jacobs and Black & Veatch instructed a team headed by Danny Gowan on several disputes. Other highlights included advising Arab Investments on its ВЈ600m Pinnacle tower development.

Denton Wilde Sapte

Denton Wilde Sapte targets high-value, complex construction projects. Examples include Robert Turner's advice to the Highways Agency on the ВЈ4.5bn M25 widening scheme, as well as John Woolley's mandate from John Laing on the ВЈ300m Pembury Hospital PPP project. The practice has notable energy leanings, and advised new client REpower Systems on a contract with RWE Energy to supply wind turbines worth ВЈ2bn.

Dundas & Wilson

Dundas & Wilson's Hamish Lal continues to drive the team forward. Recent instructions include advising The Savoy Hotel on its ВЈ45m restoration and Candy & Candy on its One Hyde Park development. Other clients include Scottish & Southern Energy and the Bank of Scotland.


Eversheds targets purchaser clients and boasts a strong infrastructure and transport practice, including key clients Transport for London and London Underground. Headed by Simon Oats, the practice advised an international mining company on a potential dispute and represented the ODA on an underground power lines project.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

The lawyers at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer receive praise for 'profound industry knowledge and technical expertise'. Disputes expert Sally Roe is representing Brookfield Construction in its ВЈ250m dispute relating to Wembley Stadium. The team has been appointed to the ODA's construction disputes panel.

K&L Gates

Kevin Greene heads the construction team at K&L Gates, which recruited Cathy Harris, formerly head of projects at Osborne Clarke. The team's appointment to the London Underground panel has led to significant instructions. Key clients include Laing O'Rourke and Henderson Global Investors, which the firm advised on ВЈ60m-worth of developments.


Linklaters' City-focused team includes Huw Baker. The practice advised British Land on the complex ВЈ350m extension to the London Square Mile's Broadgate estate, including two new buildings. In addition to central London developments, the practice boasts a national and international portfolio, with Baker advising Mubadala on the ВЈ1.2bn development of Al Sowa Island, a new finance and commerce centre in Abu Dhabi.


Macfarlanes' clients include consultants, such as architects Kohn Pederson Fox on London's Pinnacle development, and education sector clients, such as Christ's Hospital School and Lambeth College. Patrick Holmes heads the non-contentious group, while the 'first-class' Simon Nurney's contentious team promoted Douglas Wass† to the partnership in 2008.

Norton Rose

Norton Rose's international practice is regularly approached to advise on its main focus of infrastructure and energy projects. The group is led by 'excellent communicator' Richard Hill, who has niche expertise in wind power and recently advised AES Wind Farms on a Bulgarian wind farm worth €270m. Nick Pincott is advising DP World on the £1.5bn London Gateway port and logistics development.

Reynolds Porter Chamberlain

Reynolds Porter Chamberlain is well known for its insurance practice and 'one of the top PI firms in the City'. Led by Robert Hogarth the firm advised insurers on coverage for the ВЈ250m claim by Brookfield Multiplex against Mott McDonald for alleged negligence in the design of Wembley Stadium. Other clients include Carillion and the medical UKCMRI Consortium.

Speechly Bircham

Speechly Bircham is best known for its contentious prowess, under the leadership of the 'coolheaded' Tim Raper. Recent matters include representing PC Harrington in a dispute against Multiplex. The firm's merger with real estate-focused Campbell Hooper adds 'experts in the field of development, property and construction'. These include the 'precise, straight talking and committed' Steven Carey, the 'experienced' Duncan Salmon, and Julian Holloway.

Taylor Wessing

Taylor Wessing's Helen Garthwaite 'inspires confidence', helping the firm attract new work from Heron International on procurement for a large-scale redevelopment at Milton Court, near London's Barbican Estate. The group represented Kier in tripartite arbitration regarding office refurbishment, while the construction finance team represents clients such as Deutsche Bank and HSH Nordbank.

Trowers & Hamlins

Trowers & Hamlins' key strengths lie in infrastructure projects, procurement and its strong ties to the Middle East. The London office is highly active domestically, and is advising London International Exhibition Centre on its ВЈ160m ExCeL Phase 2 development, an extension of the Docklands exhibition and conference centre. The 'proactive' Anthony Yates manages the contentious practice, while David Mosey 'has a strong knowledge of partnering philosophy in the industry'.

White & Case

White & Case has strength in large-scale international projects and boasts a formidable portfolio of emerging markets work, including advising Gazprom, E.ON, BASF and NV Nederlandse Gasunie on the ВЈ6.4bn Nord Stream Pipeline linking Russia to the EU via the Baltic Sea. Ellis Baker heads this high-end practice, which is currently handling a ВЈ600m-plus ICC arbitration.

Wragge & Co

Simon Baylis leads Wragge & Co's team, which won new clients Bovis Lend Lease, National Grid and Colas Rail. The firm advised infrastructure services firm Morgan Est on a multiparty design and workmanship defects claim before the TCC, while Leicester Tigers Rugby Club sought non-contentious advice in relation to building contracts for a new North Stand at its stadium. The firm has particular expertise in wind power construction and claims.

Tier 4Allen & OveryBaker & McKenzieBeachcroftBird & BirdBoodle HatfieldBurges SalmonClyde & CoHammondsLGManchesMaxwell WinwardOlswangReed SmithSJ BerwinStephenson HarwoodTier 5Barlow Lyde & GilbertBevan BrittanField Fisher WaterhouseGlovers SolicitorsKennedysLewis SilkinSimmons & SimmonsSlaughter and MaySteptoe & JohnsonTravers SmithWatson Burton

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