Top-rated solicitor to join former rivals in a new planning law firm

Simon Ricketts, the top-rated solicitor in Planning's 2016 Law Survey, is to leave his full-time role at law firm King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) to set up a partnership with partners from two other prominent planning solicitors and Mary Cook of Cornerstone Barristers, the top-rated junior barrister in last year's survey.

Simon Ricketts: new venture announced
Simon Ricketts: new venture announced

The other partners in the new firm, to be called Town Legal LLP, will be Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) partner Patrick Robinson, Gowling WLG partner Clare Fielding, HSF senior associate Liz Christie and KWM managing associate Meeta Kaur.

Ricketts said that the firm would also be recruiting associates.

"We think there is a vacancy in the market for a focussed specialist planning law firm," Ricketts told Planning. "We will be offering to help solve the problems clients face on major, complex schemes. We will have strength in depth – even in terms of numbers we will be the equivalent of the planning law departments of many major firms".

He said Cook’s involvement would allow the new firm to offer "seamless" access to a barrister’s opinion.

"We will have someone sitting at the next desk, who can quickly take a view on specific issues". But he said that Cook would also continue operating as a practising barrister with her own clients, and "equally we will instruct other members of the bar as well as Mary".

The firm is due to open for business on 3 January 2017. Ricketts said it would be based in the City of London, but would operate across the country.

He said it would "absolutely" operate as a partnership, rather than as a looser collection of individuals.

Ricketts said he would continue to work as a consultant to KWM for around half a day per week in the "short to medium term".

He is the second prominent planning solicitor to announce their departure from their KWM role in recent weeks. Last week, it was announced that Stephen Webb had joined rival law firm Clyde & Co.

In a statement, William Naunton, KWM head of real estate, said: "Simon deservedly has a fantastic reputation as one of the country’s leading planning lawyers and I am delighted that he has agreed to remain as a consultant to KWM, via his new firm. This is a really exciting opportunity for him, to set up a boutique planning practice with some of the best known lawyers in the planning field".

But he added that the firm would be looking to recruit a new head of planning. KWM was the fourth highest rated law firm in last year’s Planning Law Survey.

A spokesman for HSF said that Patrick Robinson had "decided to retire from the firm". He added: "We thank him for his contribution over the past 38 years and wish him well for the future".

HSF is saying that it will continue to invest in its planning and real estate practice, both by nurturing its own talent and making strategic hires where opportunities for growth occur. HSF was ranked equal sixth highest rated planning law firm in last year’s Planning Law Survey.

The news is part of wider changes in the planning law market. Last night it was announced that the partners of CMS UK, Nabarro and Olswang have voted in favour of a proposal to combine their firms. Nabarro and CMS were both ranked in the top 40 planning law firms in last year’s Planning Law Survey.


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