Norwich is home to four of region’s ‘heavyweight law firms’

Andrew Barnes, senior partner Howes Percival

Andrew Barnes, senior partner Howes Percival - Credit: Archant

Four law firms with a strong presence in Norfolk have been singled out as 'regional heavyweights' in the latest set of legal rankings.

The 2014 edition of the Legal 500 notes that Birketts, Mills and Reeve, Ashton KCJ, and Howes Percival are among the top performers particularly in corporate and commercial law.

Assessing the region's legal scene, the Legal 500 notes that East Anglia 'suffered less in the downturn than many other parts of the UK, not least due to its diversity'.

It also noted the continuing trend, current across professional services firms of mergers and consolidation, which in Norfolk during the course of the last 12 months has seen the creation of Spire Solicitors following three-way merger of Overburys, Hood Vores & Allwood, and Greenland Houchen & Pomeroy with 'multiple regional offices, and strengths including social housing'.

It said that Leathes Prior's merger with Cole & Co, which was unveiled last November, 'added partners to its real estate and private client teams', while, growing number of the region's firms, including Norwich-based Rogers and Norton, are converting to limited companies or adopting alternative business structures.

It said the sector was underpinned by traditional strengths in farming, while Cambridge was also a hotbed for the growth of technology-led businesses, helping to attract international businesses to the region.

'The agricultural sector is strong in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge-shire, where land prices remain high; Norwich and Peterborough are home to a multitude of SMEs and OMBs,' it said. 'Renewed vigour in the commercial property market is fuelling continued urban development, and there is growing confidence that a steady stream of corporate deals will return.'

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Noting the performance of the region's 'big four' it said that Mills and Reeve was 'increasingly focusing on a national and international client base, with a growing reputation for City quality at regional rates'.

Birketts, which this year celebrated the 10th anniversary of the opening of its Norwich office, was 'one of the strongest firms in East Anglia, [with] a national client base in key practice areas, strengthened by a compelling, full service offering across..four offices'.

Howes Percival, which traditionally featured in high-profile, government agency projects was 'now a key player in several practice areas, including insolvency and commercial property, with a client base extending far beyond Norwich'.

Andrew Barnes, senior partner at Howes Percival, said the firm was particularly pleased for its new top tier ranking for its specialist planning team.

'Last year saw the real estate market really start to gather momentum, and this year that momentum has spread into the corporate arena, with a dramatic increase in deal activity,' he said.

'Our job is to support companies in the East that want to invest or expand, and our core strengths in property development, corporate and employment law mean we're well placed to do that.'

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