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Revolving Doors: Macfarlanes, LG and Howes Percival boost commercial real estate as CMS takes on RPC reinsurance head

A resurgence in commercial real estate work has seen heightened lateral activity in the sector with hires by Macfarlanes, Lawrence Graham (LG) and Howes Percival in a week that has also seen CMS Cameron McKenna boosts its reinsurance capability with the hire of RPC head Simon Kilgour.

Macfarlanes continues to focus on growing its non-contentious construction and real estate practices with the hire of Ashurst’s head of construction, Ann Minogue.

Minogue, who has represented high-profile property companies including British Land, Chelsfield Partners, Hines, Stanhope and the Tate, joins the 312-lawyer firm after 20 years at top 15 rival Ashurst. Her arrival follows that of Clare Breeze who joined as a commercial real estate partner from Shearman & Sterling in July.

Speaking to Legal Business, senior partner Charles Martin (pictured) said the firm is ‘excited about the prospects for our commercial real estate practice.

‘Real estate is an obvious area for us. The commercial real estate world is seeing a significant increase in activity levels after a prolonged pretty quiet period. The competitive environment in this area has shown marked improvement from our perspective over the last year or so: the upper echelons of the legal rankings are by no means impregnable.’ Macfarlanes is currently ranked by Legal 500 as a third tier firm for commercial property and construction work in a table dominated by firms such as Berwin Leighton Paisner, Clifford Chance, Ashurst and Nabarro.

Ian Nisse, head of commercial real estate at Macfarlanes said Minogue’s ‘experience and expertise, alongside the existing team of Angus Dawson, Doug Wass, Simon Nurney and Andy Mather, will significantly add to the continued development of our construction and real estate practices.’

The hires come after Macfarlanes this year unveiled a 12% growth in turnover to £114.2m while profit per equity partner was up 9% to £985,000.

Also hiring in the real estate space is LG, which has taken on real estate finance specialist Judith Gershon from Davenport Lyons.

Gershon brings experience in debt, mezzanine, equity finance and bilateral and syndicated lending, having acted primarily for institutional lenders such as HSBC, Santander, Royal Bank of Scotland, Coutts, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, Co-operative Bank and Handelsbanken. Before joining Davenport Lyons, Gershon led the real estate finance team in Eversheds Birmingham office.

LG’s head of finance, Nick Turner, said: ‘Judith brings with her deep experience advising some of the UK’s leading lenders. Her relationships with these banks are second to none and will complement our own excellent relationships with them.’

Gershon’s arrival is a boost to LG after the firm lost disputes heavyweight Eoin O’Shea to 1,584-lawyer firm Reed Smith and its financial results this year showed revenue declined for the third year running while PEP fell by 14% from £304,000 to £260,000.

The past week also saw Dentons’ construction and engineering partner Doug Masson re-join regional outfit Howes Percival as a consultant in its real estate team after leaving in 2008. Masson has advised high net worth individuals, SMEs and multinationals including NHBC, Westfield, Sainsbury’s and government departments.

Explaining his return to the firm, Masson said: ‘Howes Percival has always offered City quality legal advice but at extremely competitive regional rates. The firm’s high quality coupled with value for money is ideally suited to my clients, and to winning more.’

Elsewhere, international firm CMS has hired RPC’s head of reinsurance Simon Kilgour to join its City office – a move which managing partner Duncan Weston claims will add to the firm’s ‘big-ticket capabilities.’

Ed Foss, head of the insurance and reinsurance group, added that Kilgour’s ‘work for domestic and overseas insurers and reinsurers on complex, high value disputes and market issues complements our already strong market offering.

‘Worldwide, the industry faces a challenging environment characterised by increasingly global competition, regulatory oversight and a rising cost of capital. Simon’s experience will be a tremendous asset for this practice and its clients.’