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Burges Salmon has moved to clarify that its agriculture, food and farming practice is still in place after Salisbury-based Wilsons claimed to have hired a 10-strong team from the firm.
Wilsons has hired agricultural litigator Peter Williams, a former Burges Salmon partner, along with a team of lawyers. While Wilsons claimed that the team had joined from Burges Salmon, only one lawyer actually moved directly from the Bristol firm.
Burges Salmon has stressed that its agricultural team, which is led by partner William Neville, remains strong and committed to the sector, drawing on 20 lawyers and 10 partners from across the firm’s practice areas.
Williams worked at Burges Salmon for 30 years before opening his own firm Ebery Williams last November. Wilsons has now taken over Ebery Williams, with Williams and Miles Farren – a former Burges Salmon legal director who defected with Williams last year – both joining as partners, alongside solicitor and deputy district judge Dinah Close.
They are joined at Wilsons by Burges Salmon solicitor Ben Sharples, who joins as a partner.
Williams said: “After 30 years at Burges Salmon, my team and I are very excited about moving to Wilsons, a firm dedicated to the sector and private client work, where we fully intend to establish the best agricultural law practice in the country.
“Wilsons is a natural fit for us, because of its culture and style, which appeals to clients and its reputation for excellent lawyers.”
The new team bring Wilsons’ partner count to 34, and managing partner Jonathan Stephens said he regarded the appointments as a major coup for the firm.
“Peter and his team are the leading agricultural lawyers in the UK by miles and we’re obviously delighted to be beneficiaries of his decision to move,” he said. “This will help us hugely raise our game in terms of agricultural law and agricultural litigation.”
Williams and Burges Salmon were the subject of a long-running investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority from 2008 until last year concerning the alleged mis-selling of sub-prime loans to farmers. The SRA concluded the probe in September and no action was taken.