Keystone Law has excelled in this year’s The Legal 500, the world’s most comprehensive guide to law firms and lawyers. Securing 27 practice area rankings, 63 individual lawyer mentions and 10 Leading Individual acknowledgements, the firm gained exceptional reviews from the directory.
Find out more about what The Legal 500 had to say, below.
The continued success of Keystone Law's practice has been reflected by the growth of its team, which was recently joined by John Haggis from Sheridans. In addition, the firm expanded its offering in Northern Ireland in 2017, following a merger with Belfast firm McMahon McKay. Illustrative of the strengths of its offering, the firm acts for clients such as BBC Worldwide, Ladbrokes Coral Group and Tesco Mobile Limited. A team led by Jimmy Desai, Nadim Zaman and Anthony Misquitta is advising Intersection on an agreement with Primesight and BT to bring Links machines to the UK (enabling customers to access super-fast WiFi by standing close to a Links machine). Meriel Pymont assisted Twig World Limited (a developer of digital education resources) with an agreement to create core curriculum science products for the State of California. Other contacts in the team include Jaan Larner, Jeremy Schrire, Suzy Schmitz, Vanessa Barnett and Lucy Blick-Jones.
M&A: SMALLER DEALS, UP TO £50M
Counting start-ups, high-growth companies and large corporates, as well as private investors, venture capitalists and angel investors among its clients, Keystone has a particular focus on the TMT, healthcare and real estate sectors. Nadim Zaman advised WFL Media (trading as DesignMyNight) and its shareholders on its $30m sale to private equity-owned The Access Group; Andrew Stilton and Northern Ireland-based JP Irvine, who joined the firm from an in-house position at Translink Group, acted for pre-cast concrete products manufacturer CPM Group on its £38m sale to hard landscaping specialist Marshalls; and Catherine Williams assisted beauty services provider Blow with a £3.5m follow-on equity round investment by Unilever Ventures.
The professional practices team has ‘a very strong offering’ that includes partnership formation, incorporation restructuring, M&A, risk regulation and litigation. The group is led by the ‘sure-handed’ Peter Garry, whose experience informs ‘great insight’ in relation to partnership law. The group was instructed by partners and firms in a number of high-profile disputes in 2017, including sex discrimination, whistleblowing cases and partner exits. Consultant commercial litigator Stephen Ralph is ‘a veteran’ of the partnership space.
Appreciated by clients for the ‘excellent value for money’ that its unique business model engenders, Keystone Law has numerous practitioners that are ‘very knowledgeable’ within the venture capital space and provides a ‘personable and effective’ service to clients including Hygea VCT plc, Buckland Capital and Ardent Media. ‘Always willing to go the extra mile’, Nadim Zaman provides ‘genuine commercial insight’ to investee companies throughout their funding lifecycle. He advised Decibel Insight on its recent equity investment round which included securing a cash injection from Fidelity’s venture arm Eight Roads with participation from John Simon, via his Ventureforgood investment entity. The ‘calm, diligent and pragmatic’ Catherine Williams is ‘vastly experienced in venture capital transactions’ for both investors and investees. Dee Sian is also recommended.
Keystone Law advises on cases of bribery, corruption, embezzlement, fraud, HMRC tax investigations, money laundering and SFO prosecutions. The firm continues to act for Nest Investments, a shareholder in a Lebanese bank that was shut down for laundering funds from drug smuggling and terrorism. It has launched a £130m claim against Deloitte for allowing the bank to be used for money laundering. Key practitioner Robert Lawrie is ‘a tenacious and talented litigator’.Emily Benson and Claire Shaw who has ‘huge experience in white collar crime investigations and prosecutions’, joined as consultant solicitors.
The firm’s licensing practice has developed significantly since the arrival of Andrew Wong and Gareth Hughes from Gordon Dadds LLP in October 2016. Wong is praised as being ‘a real star’ who ‘looks for solutions to achieve the apparently impossible’, while Hughes is described as ‘first class’. Robert Sutherland is the other key name to note. The team recently advised on securing the grant of a new 24-hour licence for the new Koko and Hope Project in the heart of the Camden stress area; secured the grant of a 5am licence for a new venue Bloc South against Lambeth Council’s licensing policy; and assisted the Royal National Theatre with restructuring of the premises licence following addition of new land to the site and change of hours and refreshing conditions with local residential opposition. The firm also counts high-end London hotels and restaurants as clients.
Keystone Law’s ‘first-rate team is excellent in all respects’. In a recent fraud and negligence claim, it acted for Nest Investments (Holding), a shareholder in a Lebanese bank that was shut down by the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, in pursuing litigation against prominent Lebanese public figures, as well as a fraud and negligence claim against auditor Deloitte. Alex Ferrari's ‘style combines extensive investigation of the issues with a determined, hard approach’; and Robert Lawrie ‘has good tactical awareness and efficient management of clients and cases’. Matthew Reach, Patrick Pennal and Nilam Sharma are also key names.
New arrival at Keystone, Andrew Tugwell is well-regarded for his work on complex valuation cases and estate agent issues. Tugwell is singled out as a ‘great solicitor’ and has been advising estate agencies such as your-move.co.uk and parent company LSL Property Services on matters including lease renewals, nuisance, dilapidations and injunction proceedings.
EMPLOYMENT: EMPLOYERS AND SENIOR EXECUTIVES
The firm’s 'innovative business model allows for a flawless service, first-rate advice and a pragmatic approach' across the full gamut of employment law issues. The department saw significant growth in 2017 and 2018 with 13 partner-level recruitments overall. Key additions include Paul Daniels, who joined from Slater and Gordon and is active in the sport sectors; Juliet Carp who joined from Kingsley Napley LLP and is the chair of the Employment Lawyers Association; Nick Tsatsas who moved from Fladgate LLP, Nigel Forsyth from Wallace LLP, the 'responsive' Angharad Harris from Watson Farley & Williams LLP; and Sofia Syed who joined from Mundays LLP and is ‘always available with punctual and precise professional counsel’.
INSURANCE AND REINSURANCE LITIGATION
The ‘professional and dedicated’ Keystone Law ‘fully understands the insurance market and the type of advice that is required to assist its clients’. Employers’ and public liability claims specialist Steven Conway forms part of the practice along with Jason Kallis, a litigator who specialises in construction, product liability and property. In a recent highlight, Kallis, who is ‘intelligent yet down to earth and gives concise and accurate advice which helps insurers get to the crux of the matter’, defended pool equipment manufacturer Certikin International and its insurers against a £3.1m claim over an allegedly defective pool liner.
PRODUCT LIABILITY: DEFENDANT
The team features Antony Colman who acts for manufacturers and insurers in international trade disputes. The practice is defending Bosch against a claim served in Germany, which relates to a fire caused by a product bearing the client’s branding. The firm also counts HDI Global, Electrium and ThyssenKrupp Elevator UK as clients.
PERSONAL INJURY: DEFENDANT
Keystone Law acts for insurers and local authorities including Zurich Municipal, Travelers Insurance Company Limited, and Allianz. In an illustration of the firm’s local government expertise, the ‘exceptional’ Steven Conway acted for the London Borough of Enfield and its insurers, Travellers, in a personal injury claim involving a foster carer who was assaulted by a foster child, causing PTSD and depression; the claim was dismissed after a four-day trial. Cordelia Rushby has more than 25 years’ experience handling complex claims, often involving cross-jurisdictional issues; she ‘gets to the bottom of a problem suggesting a cure in a pragmatic manner’. The ‘methodical’ Naomi Hatchard is a ‘great communicator’.
Keystone Law handles rural planning issues, where it has particular expertise with regard to niche GPDO issues. Recent work includes advising a client challenging a decision by Fylde Borough Council granting planning permission for the construction of dog kennels in the countryside on the grounds of odour and noise; and advising on the redevelopment of Milton Pipes’ former concrete pipe manufacturing facility in Kent. Ben Garbett is ‘very knowledgeable and passionate about planning law’. Other clients include Greenham Properties and Atlas Partners.
The team at Keystone Law handles proceedings on behalf of claimants and defendants on a range of matters including intellectual property, risk management and litigation. Jonathan Coad joined the team from Lewis Silkin LLP and acts for television personality Noel Edmonds in relation to his claim against Lloyds Banking Group. He also successfully acted for Mohammad Kozbar in his defamation hearing against The Daily Telegraph. Ian Down has acted for several well-known global brands.
The recruitment of Will Sander from Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, Rebecca Halford-Harrison from Kemp Little LLP , John Haggis from Sheridans and Jonathan Coad from Lewis Silkin LLP have significantly bolstered the brand management offering. The multi-disciplinary team specialises in brand management and advertising and marketing work. Work highlights include Ian Down advising on the launch of the Louise Parker Method in a leading high-end retailer, and assisting Life Health Foods with health and nutritional claims on branded products. Vanessa Barnett continues to advise Tesco Mobile on general marketing matters and Lucy Blick-Jones assisted BBC studios with an increasing range of digital marketing work.
MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT (INCLUDING MEDIA FINANCE)
The ‘responsive and diligent’ team at Keystone Law is experienced across advertising, marketing, publishing and photography sectors and handles a range of contentious and non-contentious matters such as commercial, licensing, IP, regulatory and reputation management matters. Jonathan Coad is representing Noel Edmonds on a claim against Lloyds Banking Group; and is representing Jack Dunn on a copyright case against bestselling novelist Dan Brown. BBC Worldwide and Watkins Media are also clients. Vanessa Barnett, John Haggis, who joined in 2017 from Sheridans and acts for a range of media agencies and publications, and Lucy Blick-Jones, who has a ‘commercial approach’, are also key figures in the team.
The ‘excellent’ team has ‘a range of specialist expertise’, and is praised for its ‘speedy response times’. ‘Quick, practical, clear communicator’ Rachel Flynn is an ‘extremely helpful’ equestrian expert, ‘really understands the industry, and cuts through to the key issues’; she ‘makes complex, difficult situations a lot easier to handle’. Flynn assisted Jockey Club Racecourses with various constitutional and sponsorship matters, and advised the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association on the employment, debt recovery, insurance and horse-sale aspects of its members scheme. Other clients include World Wrestling Entertainment, Pitch International and golfer Paul McGinley. Employment expert Nick Tsatsas is often active in the sports sector; he arrived from Fladgate LLP in December 2017. Lucy Blick-Jones is an ‘extremely thorough, efficient and very likeable’ IT and GDPR expert with ‘excellent knowledge’. Morris Bentata left to join Level Law in October 2017.
Keystone Law is active across a range of aviation sector matters, such as liabilities, claims and contentious work, as well as commercial and regulatory matters. Surf Air Europe, Genesis Aerotech, Flybe, Virgin Atlantic, Nimbus Aviation and Transatlantic Aviation are clients for the team where recommended individuals include Trevor Sears, who is experienced in insolvency and dispute resolution; barrister Hugh O’Donovan, who has ‘in-depth experience’; Simon Murfitt; and litigator Alex Ferrari.
The marine and shipping team at Keystone Law is active across contentious and non-contentious work and is noted for its yacht experience, as well as its expertise across insurance disputes, collisions, salvage claims, cargo and freight disputes, regulatory matters, and breaches. Marine specialist Jonathan Hadley-Piggin, Anastasia Papadopoulou who handles commercial shipping matters and recently joined from TLT, Benjamin Maltby who joined from Ince & Co, and Dharmendra Nair who joined from Squire Patton Boggs, are the key contacts.
SOUTH WEST: CONSTRUCTION
Keystone Law has built a strong construction practice in its Bristol office, which provides comprehensive contentious and non-contentious construction advice to educational institutions and sub-contractors. Martin Howe advises University of Southampton on all of its major ongoing construction projects, including a £33m development on the Boldrewood Campus and the £30m development of a new teaching centre on the Highfield Campus. Similarly, the team advised University of Bristol on the construction aspects of the re-tendering of its consultant frameworks. Additionally, a team including Louise Garcia assists Geoffrey Osborne Limited with all of its ongoing contentious and non-contentious contract and tendering matters. Additional clients include Interserve, Forcia, Kingston Building Contractors and The University of West England.
ISLE OF MAN: DISPUTE RESOLUION
At Keystone Law, ‘the service provided is exceptionally high quality’ and ‘response times beat the competition’s – they always remain available to meet at short notice’, according to one client. The group is currently advising a liquidator on the Isle of Man law aspects of the winding down of a fund, and Bridgewaters appointed the firm to handle the recoveries of monies owed via security documents. Clients describe practice head Gillian Christian as ‘an outstanding lawyer’ who ‘regularly uses his wealth of knowledge, pragmatism and formidable presence in court’ to ‘steer them through complex legal disputes’. Also notable is Charles Coleman, who ‘consistently demonstrates great technical ability’ and is currently defending a high-net-worth individual regarding claims against third parties, complex insurance issues and professional negligence allegations following a multi-incident casualty in the Mediterranean. Solicitor Rachel Berry is part of the team guiding a corporate services provider through fraud and breach of contract claims and is also key name to note.
ISLE OF MAN: INSURANCE AND PENSIONS
At Keystone Law, ‘the level of services provided is exceptionally high’ and ‘the combined knowledge and experience of the team is a match for any law firm on the Isle of Man’, according to one client. Ben Hughes and consultant Monica Ma continue to provide ongoing pensions advice to a trust company with regard to issues such as regulatory and tax approvals. In another highlight, the pair recently advised the trustees of an Isle of Man scheme on its buy-out and winding up, which included a comprehensive review of the benefit tables before their submission to the annuity providers, and on anticipating potential member disputes. Notable clients include the Public Sector Pensions Authority.
ISLE OF MAN: EMPLOYMENT
Lawyers ‘go out of their way to provide the most responsive service’ and some clients ‘consider them to be equal to – if not better than – the more established firms on the island’. The full-service offering fields names such as ‘pensions law expert’ Ben Hughes, who remains as adviser to the Public Sector Pensions Authority with regard to the consolidation of multiple public-sector schemes into a unified government scheme, among other matters. Also notable is Gillian Christian, who – with the help of advocate Rachel Berry – is currently advising Whitbread on the opening of a new Premier Inn location on the island. She also provides advice pertaining to redundancies in the context of restructurings and M&A transactions. Consultant Monica Ma is also a name to note.
ISLE OF MAN: CORPORATE AND COMMERCIAL
Keystone Law services a varied client base ranging from local start-ups to international corporates and global financial institutions. The ‘very responsive and high-quality’ team has ‘a strong understanding of its clients’ needs’ and operates under the joint leadership of ‘very commercial and client-orientated’ managing partner Geoff Kermeen and consultant Stephen Rodd. Vannin Ventures instructed the firm to oversee the structuring and documentation of its acquisition of a majority interest in Goshawk and the joint venture agreement between the two entities following the completion of the transaction. On the local front, William Margot and Gillian Christian acted for a car dealership in a number of matters arising from its recent takeover of multiple sites on the island, such as the setting up of a hive agreement for the transfer of assets from three dealerships to the main trading company. The ‘completely reliable’ Sally Cranshaw is ‘always knowledgeable and gets the deal done'.
ISLE OF MAN: BANKING AND FINANCE
Sally Cranshaw, Geoff Kermeen and William Margot recently advised Clearbell Capital on its acquisition of a Luxembourg SPV which holds real estate assets in Birmingham, as well as on its subsequent redomiciliation to the Isle of Man and the associated post-transaction refinancing. ING appointed the group to oversee the Isle of Man law aspects of a syndicated senior secured term loan related to the refinancing and development of a property in London, and the intra-group transfer of a portfolio of loan facilities. Margot also regularly advises a varied client base, including major banks, lender and borrowers, on the financing of Isle of Man entities such as companies, partnerships and trusts.
NORTHERN IRELAND: CORPORATE AND COMMERCIAL
Following its merger with commercial law boutique McMahon McKay in 2017, Keystone Law is very well known for its track record on M&A and investment work. The group represents buy-side and sell-side clients from a range of sectors, including manufacturing and real estate. Highlights included advising a prominent investment fund on the £70m investment in Halo Belfast, a 5-year cyber and economic development project. John McMahon leads the team, in which J P Irvine and Danny McKay are key names.
NORTHERN IRELAND: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY
Keystone Law’s property team has ‘a practical, commercial approach to resolving legal issues’ and provides ‘advice that is tailored to the matter in hand’. The group advises companies and individuals on leases and acquisitions for hotel, retail and residential developments, as well as handling landlord and tenant matters. In a standout mandate, the firm advised Belfast-based property group Kilmona on its £90m refinancing of its group banking facilities with Fairfield Real Estate Finance. Jim Houston jointly heads the practice with Danny McKay. John McMahon is another key name.
*Leading individuals feature in bold