Birchams exits NFU panel as 15 firms reappointed

Bircham Dyson Bell has left the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) external legal panel “by mutual consent”, as 15 firms have won places on the reviewed roster of advisers.

Birchams is the only one of the NFU’s previous 16 panel firms to exit the roster following an “intensive” two-month review carried out earlier this summer by the century-old agricultural lobby group.

The panel, launched in 2008, demands a discount of 12.5 per cent on firms’ hourly rates, alongside packages such as fixed-fee arrangements, with successful firms earning the right to advise the NFU’s members.

Bowcock Cuerden, Clarke Willmott, Crombie Wilkinson, Foot Antsey, Hewitsons, Lanyon Bowdler, Jacksons Law Firm, Napthens, Shakespeares, Tees Solicitors, Thrings, Wilkin Chapman, Wright Hassall and Welsh duo John Collins Partners and Cyfraith JRL Law have all held onto their panel spots.

They will stay on the roster for another three years, but the NFU said Birchams would leave “at the end of the summer by mutual consent”, adding that a replacement will be found shortly.

Two firms are appointed from each region of England and Wales, except the South East, which has been left with only one following Birchams’ departure.

Applicant firms were asked to complete a questionnaire and judged based on feedback from various NFU offices on their previous performance.

NFU finance and business services director Ken Sutherland said the panel firms had bulked up their agricultural and rural teams to meet union members’ needs, especially in light of increased regulation in the market.

He said the panellists had “gone through a rigorous review process within the past two months” .

He added in a statement: “They’ve been retained for both their strength and depth in agricultural and horticultural matters together with other non-agricultural related specialist areas that affect our members.”

The inaugural panel in 2008 gave places to 16 firms including Birchams following 200 expressions of interest, with 41 firms shortlisted (12 May 2008).

Birchams was unavailable for comment.

The updated panel in full:

East Anglia: Hewitsons, Tees Solicitors

East Midlands: Wilkin Chapman, Wright Hassall

North East: Crombie Wilkinson, Jacksons Law Firm

North West: Bowcock Cuerden, Napthens

South East: Thrings

South West: Clarke Willmott, Foot Antsey

West Midlands: Lanyon Bowdler, Shakespeares

Wales: Cyfraith JRL Law, John Collins Partners