19 November 2012

Forsters - What the directories say

Chambers UK - A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2013 Edition

Forsters has once again been very highly rated by Chambers Guide to the UK Legal Profession in its 2013 edition, with 21 of its lawyers ranked as leading individuals. 

For the seventh year running  Forsters is ranked by Chambers in the top band for mid tier property deals in London and retains its unique position as the only London firm ranked by Chambers for both top tier and mid tier property deals.

Commenting on the news Paul Roberts, Managing Partner, said:

“We are delighted with the results both for the groups and individuals – with numerous Forsters lawyers improving their rankings across several areas of work including property, property finance, planning and employment.  The results reflect once again how highly Forsters is rated by clients and referrers.

Commercial Property

Forsters' real estate team is considered to be a leader for mid-market deals, while it also provides clients with an exemplary service on big-ticket transactions and matters in the hotel and leisure sphere. Clients wax lyrical about the real estate team's service: "They take the time to understand the big picture from the outset. They provide good input from other teams and have worked well with our range of consultants and other lawyers. There is a consistency of approach across the firm, with strength in depth."

As in previous years, Smita Edwards, Howard Gill and Eugene McMahon are named as leading individuals alongside new leaders Matthew Swainston and Magnus Hassett.

Smita Edwards, who improves her personal rankings this year, is noted for her "ability to adapt to a situation," while her "commercial awareness is second to none." Edwards is noted for her considerable expertise in acting for developers on retail, commercial and mixed-use developments.

Eugene McMahon "brings a strong commercial approach with a focus on the deal. He will always provide a solution to a potential problem, and often a range of options to choose from." He has been advising the British Airways Pension Fund on a new development in Chorley, Lancashire, which will be let to Waitrose as a regional distribution warehouse. His expertise also extends to landlord and tenant work, regeneration and funding.

Howard Gill … is regularly involved in some of the firm's key mandates advising on acquisitions and disposals. Recent work highlights have included acting for Lathe Investments on its £27.8 million disposal of Castlegate Shopping Centre, Stockton-on-Tees, to Angelo, Gordon & Co. Clients say that he is "able to provide a very good commercial perspective in negotiations, and he is a good deal broker."

Head of group, Matthew Swainston, is "very good, pragmatic, and easy to work with," according to clients. He has been advising Alrov Properties on its hotel and retail development on the Café Royal site, Regent Street, London.

Up-and-coming partner Magnus Hassett advises a range of investors and occupants on acquisitions and disposals, asset management and lettings.

Real Estate - Hotels & Leisure

Penny Elliott is ranked as a leader in her field specialises in hotels and leisure sector work, which has recently seen her represent Bespoke Hotels in its purchase of two hotel businesses from Cotswold House Hotel, as well as taking a lease of the hotels from the seller.

Real Estate Litigation

[Forsters] has enjoyed a fine year, handling both residential and commercial disputes, and property-related insolvency matters. Fellow solicitors recognise "a strong practice" with an emphasis on landlord representation and a solid private client base, while clients note that the group is "easy to deal with." The team works closely alongside its non-contentious colleagues to provide a seamless service to clients.

As in previous years, Jonathan Ross, Natasha Rees and Ros Cullis are named as leading individuals.

The "very professional and very positive" Jonathan Ross heads the firm's property litigation department. Sources attest that he is "great to deal with." He acts for business clients and private individuals on the full variety of property disputes.

Natasha Rees draws warm praise from the market, with one source commenting that she is "not a self-publicist but has made a name for herself - when she gets in charge of a matter you can get down to the nub of the question." Her areas of excellence include leasehold enfranchisement and property-related professional negligence.

Rosalind Cullis is a respected associate who advises clients on landlord and tenant and debt recovery matters.


This firm is known for its considerable experience with s106 agreements, and it has won many plaudits for its work in this area. Alongside this core strength it deals with judicial reviews, planning appeals and inquiries, such as the recent probe into proposals for two towers and a mixed-use scheme next to Vauxhall Station. CPOs and compensation issues are also covered,

As in previous years, Tim Taylor and Michael Cunliffe are named as leading individuals, joined this year by “Star Associate” Oliver Wright.

Head of practice Tim Taylor has more than 15 years of property experience and specialises in mixed-use development schemes. He led the team acting for Menta Developments on a residential mixed-use scheme at Cherry Orchard Gardens in Croydon.

Consultant Michael Cunliffe has been "known and admired for a very long time" according to peers, and is still regarded as one of the foremost authorities on s106 agreements. He has recently been involved in matters for both Menta Developments and Vauxhall Cross.  

Star associate Oliver Wright joined the firm in September 2011 from Berwin Leighton Paisner. Peers call him a "bright and capable individual" and "one to watch." He has a particular talent for contentious issues, in which he has been extensively involved.  


Group head, Sarah Cook, is, once again, named as a leading individual. She is described by sources as "very competent and extremely commercial."

Real Estate Finance

Head of group, Victoria Edwards, improves her rankings as a leading individual and is "highly committed to the client and has a good understanding of their needs." She provides restructuring, investment and development finance advice to both borrowers and lenders.

Private Client

Forsters is known for providing a long-standing service to some of England's largest landed estates. However, Forsters is increasing its market share of work with non-UK domiciled clients involving offshore jurisdictions. The firm is capable of advising on offshore trust restructuring, estate maintenance, and cross-border tax issues. A peer comments: "Forsters is … strengthening its team and is making an impact. It has a strong private client ethos."

As in previous years, David Robinson, Carole Cook and Fiona Smith are named as leading individuals.

David Robinson is regarded as a "highly technical but very clear communicator." He leads the firm's private client offering, and handles an array of matters ranging from wills to taxation.

Carole Cook handles a range of contentious and non-contentious private client work. One impressed interviewee said: "She is a terribly bright lady who I rate highly. She is a tax and trust maven."

Fiona Smith has recently acted in matters involving cross-border tax issues and international trusts. A source notes that "her work is immaculate. She is very good at keeping to task."

Agriculture & rural affairs

Forsters remains an institution in the agriculture and landed estates realm. The team frequently advises clients on inheritance tax (IHT) savings and mitigation. The practice also excels at trust reorganisation and conveyancing. A commentator lauds the team for "having gravitas with clients and an overall awareness of the sector."

Andrew Lane and Penny Elliott are, as in previous years, named as leading individuals.

Andrew Lane brings experience of a past farming career to his capital tax planning and trust advice. A source praises Lane for being"particularly skilled with agriculture and farming estates and all matters relating to the complexities of transactions."

Penelope Elliott has particular expertise advising a range of clients, including sizeable agribusinesses, on rural property matters. Sources note that she brings "experience and a lot of energy" to the table.

Contentious Trusts

This team takes a cross-disciplinary approach to contentious trusts and probate, and pools expertise from the firm's advisory private client and litigation practices. It handles trustee disputes and estate administrations conflicts, among other matters, "They have their feet on the ground and have a strong sense of reality," an interviewee states.


Sources characterise this as "a group that gives clients a good deal of personal attention and very much prides itself on being available to clients whenever it is required."

As in previous years, group head, Ann Northover and Shona Alexander are identified as leading individuals.

Ann Northover has a broad-ranging practice that regularly involves substantial asset cases, disputes over children and issues arising from unmarried families.

Shona Alexander is often a first port of call for clients seeking assistance with high-value financial matters, particularly where multiple jurisdictions are involved.


For the first time head of group, Jane Wheeler, is ranked as a leader and is described "commercial, professional and understands the needs of her clients." She has notable expertise of advising clients in the telecommunications, advertising and academic sectors.

Our Insights

"I have always been impressed with the quality and speed of service and thoroughness - the latter is critical."
Chambers UK