The fog on the Tyne is all Watson Burton's. It has been a record year for the medium-sized North East firm, with annual figures showing a 22 per cent increase in turnover.`”It's an old firm with a youthful attitude,” says Rob Langley, head of both the construction and insurance and the litigation practices, speaking from Durham's cricket ground. In fact, the average age of the 22 partners is just 41.`Watson Burton's roots go back to 1811 and its founding partner Joseph Watson. Since then the Newcastle upon Tyne practice has held its position as one of the region's five purely commercial firms. For the avid Watson Burton enthusiast, it is possible to visit the original office of Robert Spence Watson at the North of England Open Air Museum in Beamish.`From these humble beginnings, the firm has developed into one of the region's largest full-service practices.`”It offers possibly the largest construction practice operating out of one office in the North of England,” says Langley. The practice is representing the developer on a £29m deal for the new Hilton International hotel in Gateshead.`Watson Burton has a good mix of clients with Premier Direct and Kvaerner among a list that ranges from national banks to large accountancy firms. One company is testimony to the adhesive nature of relationships between Watson Burton and its clients. The firm has acted for local compressor servicing company Marshall Branson from the day it was formed in the 1930s to its merger with Econmatics last November.`In a coup for the firm's growing debt recovery practice, Watson Burton is a new appointee to Halifax's debt recovery panel and has already been instructed to act on 400 mortgage shortfall recovery cases. Senior partner Andrew Hoyle believes the appointment to be “recognition of the fact that we have continued to build our debt recovery practice”. The firm strengthened its debt recovery capability in January this year with the appointment of Julian Gill. Commercial and insolvency litigation specialist Gill, who heads the practice, was recruited from local rival Robert Muckle.`Other lateral hires have included tempting inward and outward investment expert Nicholas Craig away from Eversheds' Newcastle office. Craig's departure was described in the regional press as “one of the most significant in North East legal circles in recent years”.`Watson & Burton has branched out in other ways too. This week saw the launch of a web audit product called Veritum. This ensures that domain names, IP rights, advertising and site security issues have been investigated and that each client website complies with current legislation.`Last February, Watson Burton hit the headlines with news of a possible merger with another North East firm, Ward Hadaway. Talks dissolved and Ward Hadaway later merged with Gateshead practice Keenlyside & Forster. Langley shows no sign of disappointment at this, stating that “we've flourished on our own”.