Property blow for Eversheds Leeds

Eversheds in Leeds has lost its head of property litigation to Irwin Mitchell – along with work from some of its key property clients.

Penny Belcher is one of the top property litigation lawyers in the North-East, and has worked for clients including supermarket giant Asda and printing and packaging group Rexam.

The Lawyer understands both clients will continue instructing her at Irwin Mitchell.

Belcher says: “I moved because Eversheds has become so enormous that I felt like a number in a box – it's not the firm I joined seven years ago. I wanted more direct contact with clients and the rest of the firm.”

Eversheds now has no property litigation partners operating in Leeds, although there is one in Manchester.

“There is now only a senior solicitor there and her charge out rate is about the same as mine is here at Irwin Mitchell,” says Belcher.

“They are pricing themselves out of the market that I operate in.

“As a property lawyer I am looking for local clients and not necessarily global companies.

“There are quite a lot of companies in this country that have one or two large offices and I think Eversheds have priced themselves out of that.”

She says her hourly charge out rate has gone down by more than £40 with her move.

Eversheds' Leeds managing partner David Ansbro says: “We are sorry that Penny feels that is the case.

“We are well able to attract property litigation work at commercial rates but I don't want to enter a public debate on it.”

He refuses to comment on the loss of work, saying it would be inappropriate to comment on client matters without talking to them first.

Belcher has acted for Asda on a number of multimillion pound disputes, including judicial reviews of planning applications and some substantial rent reviews.

At Irwin Mitchell she is charged with developing the property litigation practice. The firm's property department already boasts clients such as the Royal Armouries, the Tower of London and Sheffield International Sporting Venues.

Head of commercial property at Irwin Mitchell Kevin Docherty says: “Penny obviously has an excellent pedigree and to add a solicitor of her calibre to an already successful team gives further breadth to the services we offer.”

Asda company solicitor Eleanor Doohan says: “Penny is a fantastic lawyer and the fact that she has left Eversheds will not preclude us from instructing her.

“Eversheds remain our main lawyers but we do use other firms when we think the person there is the best one for the job.”