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Keystone Law celebrates another record year in the Legal 500 2017 rankings

Keystone Law is pleased to announce their highest ever rankings in this year’s Legal 500, one of the leading guides to law firms and individual lawyer performance in the UK.

The “highly rated” firm was acknowledged in a total of 21 different practice areas with 54 lawyers individually highlighted and 7 gaining the coveted elite Leading Lawyer status.

The firm also gained exceptional reviews of the new Isle of Man and Northern Ireland offices.

Below is what the directory said about the teams:

M&A: smaller deals , up to £50m

Keystone Law’s ‘personable, effective and widely, deeply knowledgeable’ department comprises a revolving roster of highly experienced partners. It is best known for acting for SMEs and entrepreneurs, and is active in a range of sectors, including TMT, healthcare and real estate. ‘Exceptional negotiator’ Nadim Zaman advised Network Locum on its purchase of rLocums, Jaan Larner assisted Priory Solutions with its $8m sale to Roberts Group, and Andrew Stilton acted for GRS (Bagging) on its acquisition of various businesses. Other clients in 2016 included FW Thorpe, Peter Savage, Healthharmonie and Muller Holdings.

Commercial contracts

Keystone Law’s team has undergone significant expansion; notable recent arrivals included Sarah Needham, who joined from DC Thomson Limited, and Jeremy Bennett, an addition from MTR Corporation. In 2016, Jimmy Desai, who was hired from DAC Beachcroft LLP, worked with Anthony Misquitta and Nadim Zaman to advise New York based company Intersection Parent on a joint venture with Primseight and partnership with BT for the launch of a new communications service, bringing high-speed WiFi and other digital services to London and other UK cities. Suzy Schmitz, Stephen Rodd and Ian Down are other contacts. Jeremy Schrire recently joined from King & Wood Mallesons.

Construction

Keystone Law has built an experienced construction and engineering team in its Bristol office, which continues to act for major construction companies and educational institutions in both contentious and non-contentious matters. Highly regarded in the field, Martin Howe has been advising The University of West England on issues relating to the completion of the new £55m business and law faculty building. Howe’s other clients include Blackburn Waterside Regeneration Limited and University of Southampton. The team was recently joined by Jon Close, who joined from BPE Solicitors LLP and advised Dowdeswell Estates on a £10m hotel extension and an £11.9m heritage scheme. Louise Garcia provides ongoing advice to Geoffrey Osborne Limited concerning contentious construction issues and commercial contracts.

Crime, fraud and licensing

Keystone Law is ‘building up a strong reputation in this practice area’ and ‘is particularly well placed to handle complex commercial fraud disputes’. The team works with a range of banks, businesses and individuals on fraud prevention and resolution, and has recently advised Nest Investments in a claim against a Lebanese bank which was shut down by the United States Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Key figure Robert Lawrie is ‘a very experienced individual’ who ‘has razor-sharp legal skills and is extremely user friendly’.

Licensing

Keystone Law saw the arrival of Gareth Hughes and Andrew Wong from Gordon Dadds LLP, which has significantly bolstered the firm’s licensing practice. Wong is praised as being ‘an exceptionally commercially minded lawyer who approaches cases like an entrepreneur’ and ‘combines a realistic approach with a can-do attitude’, and Hughes is described as ‘an experienced and determined licensing practitioner who is known and respected by all sides of the industry’. Robert Sutherland is the other key name to note, and ‘has a great instinct for legal points to fight coupled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of licensing law’. The team recently advised on the licensing aspects of the Deptford Project Regeneration Scheme, a £47m public private partnership with the London Borough of Lewisham, and assisted the board of trustees for the Tate Gallery with a new premises license for the Tate Modern following the completion of a £260m extension. Devonshire Club and Lescargot are also key clients.

Commercial litigation

Keystone Law’s is highly rated for its representation in high-value commercial disputes. The firm’s key litigators include Alex Ferrari, Patrick Pennal and Nilam Sharma. Ferrari recently acted in a claim regarding the calculation of royalties and breach of contract issues.

Insurance and reinsurance litigation

HDI Global, MS Amlin plc and Zurich feature on Keystone Law’s extensive client list. Marine specialist Jonathan Hadley-Piggin joined from Keates Ferris and acted for CGI Finance in proceedings against AXA regarding the total loss of a superyacht. Other key contacts include dual-qualified US and UK solicitor Nilam Sharma, who handles D&O claims and professional negligence actions against professionals that advise on financial transactions. Steven Conway arrived from Browne Jacobson LLP and product liability expert Antony Colman was hired from Thomas Eggar LLP.

Personal injury: defendant

Keystone Law handles the full range of defendant personal injury cases involving public liability, local authorities, marine injury and health and safety. Recommended are the ‘highly professional’ Cordelia Rushby, who specialises in identifying medical and financial fraud, and Steven Conway, who joined from Browne Jacobson LLP and has expertise in handling cases involving local authorities.

Product liability: defendant

Keystone Law bolstered its team by hiring ‘strong negotiator’ and ‘real specialist’ Antony Colman from Thomas Eggar LLP, who acts for manufacturers and insurers in international trade disputes. Health and safety expert David Beckenham arrived from an in-house position at Harsco Corporation and is adept in product recalls and defending against enforcement actions under food and safety laws, among other work. Jason Kallis is defending Bosch against a claim served in Germany, which relates to a fire caused by a product bearing the client’s branding. The ‘dynamic and up-and-coming firm’ also counts HDI Global, Electrium and ThyssenKrupp Elevator UK as clients.

Commercial property

Keystone Law enjoyed considerable expansion in 2016, with a number of hires including Susan Anand, who joined from Russell-Cooke LLP and Stuart Darlington, who joined from Simkins LLP. The team remained active across a range of sectors including residential, hotel and leisure and healthcare, and in one standout mandate Shayne Foley acted for Nilerace on the £50m sale of 36 care homes. Another name to note is Lisa Raymond, who specialises in acting for retailers such as Models Own; she advised said client on various matters including the granting of a new lease at Trinity Leeds Centre.

Planning

Keystone Law is lauded as a ‘market leader in the virtual law firm niche’, and the five-strong team of consultants remained highly active both in the promotion of, as well as the objection to, planning schemes. Ben Garbett, who has ‘good technical knowhow and commercial savvy’, advised Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Trust on a series of planning applications for Phase II of the re-establishment of the Lynton to Barnstaple heritage railway which runs through Exmoor National Park. The team was particularly busy in the contentious space; Garbett acted for joint claimants in a judicial review challenge seeking to quash South Gloucestershire Council’s grant of planning that allowed the use of fields and woodland as a shooting school. Other names to note are David Evans, Oliver Goodwin and Andrew Hignett; Hignett has been handling a number of significant marine sector projects, including the promotion of new statutory powers for the Isle of Wight Council, in its capacity as harbour authority for Newport, in order to regenerate a central part of the town. Barrister Gareth Hughes joined from Gordon Dadds LLP.

Brand management

Keystone Law further strengthened its brand management offering with the hire of Lucy Blick-Jones from BBC Worldwide, Sarah Needham from DC Thomson, Suzy Schmitz from Kemp Little LLP, and Vanessa Barnett from Charles Russell Speechlys LLP. Recent highlights saw Anthony Misquitta advising Guthy-Renker UK on IP and advertising law issues; Ian Down advising a fast food chain on a broad range of advertising, promotions and campaigns; and Schmitz assisting a consumer goods company with comparative advertising and third party trade mark issues.

Sport

Keystone Law’s sports work is ‘very diverse and constantly expanding’. Highlights included acting for Perform Group on its provision of sports data to the media and betting markets, and on its acquisition of international media and marketing rights to global sports events. They also advised World Wrestling Entertainment on regulatory and commercial matters concerning its network and brand in the UK. Former jockey Rachel Flynn is recommended for equestrian sports, and commercial litigator Jacqueline Brown is experienced in football as well as equestrian sports.

Aviation

Regulatory, commercial, and contentious mandates are a mainstay of the practice at Keystone Law. Highlights included advising Blue Island on its airline franchise agreement with Flybe. Virgin Atlantic, Wizzair, Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority and Privatair are also clients. Key individuals include Trevor Sears, who is ‘very experienced’, Jeremy Bennett, Alex Ferrari, who handles domestic and international disputes in the aviation sector, and Susannah Sheppard, who advises on EU and UK competition matters. Barrister Hugh O’Donovan, who specialises in commercial and competition aviation, has a ‘fantastic reputation’.

Shipping

Keystone Law’s ‘reactive, efficient and knowledgeable’ team handles a range of contentious and non-contentious shipping mandates including insurance disputes, collisions, salvage claims and charter party disputes. It is particularly noted for its yachting and superyacht sector expertise. Key figures include Jonathan Hadley-Piggin, who focuses on the yachting sector, Andrew Hignett and Ian Sellars.

Banking and Finance, Isle of Man

According to one client, the newly established Keystone Law provides ‘service equal to or better than the long-established Isle of Man law firms’. The firm handles a significant number of real estate finance transactions for blue-chip lenders. Geoff Kermeen advised the Royal Bank of Scotland on a range of real estate financings, including a £24m loan facility to a Manx SPV for the purpose of buying 44 bank branches. It also acted for ING Real Estate Finance on a £115m loan to six SPVs for the refinancing of five buildings in London. With William Margot, he also advised Nationwide Building Society on an £8m refinancing of real estate in Liverpool through a Manx company.

Corporate and Commercial, Isle of Man

Established in Douglas in January 2016, Keystone Law handles a range of deals concerning onshore real estate and is ‘highly responsive and provides an excellent service – it is hungry and energetic when other firms are asleep’. Geoff Kermeen is ‘technically very good, commercial and responsive’ – he acted along with Stephen Rodd and the ‘very user-friendlySally Cranshaw (a new hire from Cains) on the England and Manx law aspects of several transactions for Henley Investments, including the purchases of £18m of student accommodation and a former quarry near Ebbsfleet with planning permission for over 10,000 new houses, and the sales of an industrial site worth £11.5m and an office building in Milton Keynes for £4.5m.

Dispute Resolution, Isle of Man

At Keystone Law, ‘response times are excellent: the team has extensive experience and an excellent approach to understanding clients’ needs, addressing them in a professional and proficient manner’. Gillian Christian, formerly of Cains, has ‘a wealth of knowledge and provides clear guidance; her strengths are her professionalism and solution-driven approach to the most difficult problem’. She has a strong track record in trust litigation and advised the claimants in AB v CD, the Isle of Man’s first-ever case concerning the applicability of the rule in Hastings-Bass. She also acted for the liquidators of MRP Brazil, which involves a freezing order connected to a failed project to construct a Trump-branded property in Rio di Janeiro. Charles Coleman, who joined from Gough Law in early 2017, is ‘a favourite with clients – he combines proactive enthusiasm with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Manx law and practice’. Other highlights included shareholder disputes and professional negligence concerning law firms. Rachel Berry, who joined from Appleby, has a track record in personal injury law and Inheritance Act claims.

Employment, Isle of Man

Keystone Law provides ‘excellent all-round advice’ on both contentious and non-contentious employment matters. Newly recruited from Cains, Gillian Christian is ‘a go-to lawyer, who is always available and delivers what clients require’. She advised Avfuel on redundancy issues in the light of a change of fuel supplier at Isle of Man Airport and Wilton on various terminations and disciplinary proceedings. Also involved in these mandates is advocate Rachel Berry, a new hire from Appleby. Other clients include The Co-operative Group, which uses the firm for employment tribunal work, and Sondica Group.

Pensions, Isle of Man

At Keystone Law, consultant Ben Hughes (a fresh recruit from Cains) handles cross-border pension scheme formations, QROPS regulatory issues and tax matters. Clients include shipping and financial services companies.

Corporate & Commercial, Northern Ireland

Keystone Law made its entrance into the Northern Ireland market in 2017 through its merger with commercial law boutique McMahon McKay. The ‘very capable, commercial and responsive’ firm has garnered a solid reputation for its track record on M&A and investments into Northern Ireland. In a standout matter the group advised a majority shareholder of Delta Print & Packaging on the £80m sale of the company to Huhtamaki. The firm has been particularly busy acting on buy-side mandates for international and UK-based investment firms such as Rhino Investment Management, Straban Limited and Eirron Limited. On the sell side practice head, John McMahon led the advice to Belfast Distillery Company on the sale of the business to a US investment firm; McMahon is praised for combining ‘a pragmatic approach without compromising the best interests of his clients’. Danny McKay is another key name.



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