Brief encounter: laytons

Laytons may be a small firm but it still manages to cover a large part of the UK, with offices in London, Bristol, Surrey and Manchester.

The past few years have seen tentative steps towards expanding its core resources in order to retain big-name clients, including a myriad of banks and well-known brands, from First National and Oxford Instruments to QVC and Red Bull.

All of Laytons' offices have grown marginally in size over the last year, and 2001 has started in a similar vein. Laytons is taking over the practice of John Morgan, who will be joining the firm as a senior consultant on 1 May to strengthen the company commercial department. His arrival will coincide with that of Sarah Dawson, who is joining as a partner. Dawson comes from Morgan Cole, which has witnessed a mass departure of partners in the past few weeks, with Ian Jonhson, Martin Billings and Caren Kirk all leaving for different firms.

Laytons, though, hopes to take advantage of increased opportunities in commercial work in the M25 corridor by moving its Surrey offices from Hampton Court to Guildford. But it will be a difficult prospect, as currently much of the work, including that of Microsoft, is going to City firms such as Baker & McKenzie.

It has not been all plain sailing for Laytons. Early in 2000, the firm lost key partner John Redmond to regional rival Osborne Clarke. Redmond was the firm's national head of construction and was based in its Bristol office, and was a huge loss to Laytons, which depends heavily on the reputation of its partners in the firm's key areas of commercial, corporate finance, construction and property.

Laytons is now looking at other growth areas such as IT and e-commerce, as well as developing further its insolvency practice. Insolvency is a department it has maintained at a fairly strong level for a number of years, and if economic forecasts of a slowdown in the UK economy are to be given any credit, then it is a side to the firm that will surely experience increased business in 2001.

It has been the firm's litigation department, however, that has recently attracted most attention. It acted on a number of high-profile cases, including the dispute over the branding of the popular soft drink Red Bull. A team of litigation lawyers under the supervision of Richard Harrison ensured a rebranding of the vodka and energy drink Red Square and the payment of substantial damages and costs to Red Bull. Laytons was also involved in the move to place injunctions on the sale of another drink, VRB.