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Maidstone firm Brachers has withdrawn from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) South East England legal panel.
Brachers, which has close links with Kent's agricultural community, will be replaced by commercial firm Cripps Harries Hall. Brachers insists that its historical links with the NFU will be maintained, but stated that the profile and nature of the work offered by the NFU panel no longer fits with its strategy. Partner Douglas Horner said that the firm is not on any other agricultural panels. "But we're going to keep on our entire agricultural team," he added. "The move doesn't signify a withdrawal from agricultural work." Horner is confident that the firm's links with individual farmers will sustain the agricultural department. "We're part of the agricultural community and we have an excellent list of local clients in Kent and its neighbouring counties," he explained. The reshuffle becomes effective from 1 October this year. The current NFU legal panel was set up in 1999. It is a referral panel in which law firms take cases through a call centre that gives first-level advice. It is administrated by a separate company, set up in 1999, named NFU Services. "A miscellany of work comes through the call centres to the referral firms, and we found that this didn't fit our profile," said Horner. "However, we will hopefully retain the links we had with the NFU before the 1999 panel was established, in particular by continuing to serve on the NFU legal assistance panel." NFU regional director Shaun Leavey confirmed that Brachers would not be withdrawing from the NFU completely. "Brachers will continue to give their support to the NFU, albeit outside the legal panel," he said. Thring Townsend, the existing NFU panel members for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, will also act on the NFU South East panel from 1 October. Cripps Harries Hall was unavailable for comment.