Awards preview: real estate team of the year

On 22 June, 1400 people will crowd into the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane for the most eagerly-awaited event of the year. With only one week to go, The Lawyer brings you a sneak preview of the shortlisted individuals and teams

Berwin Leighton Paisner

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) is shortlisted for its success on a very tricky planning application, the results of which will be far-reaching for not just the City of London, but throughout cities in England. The team was instructed by Teighmore on the development and planning of the 306 metre landmark office hotel and apartment building London Bridge Tower. It successfully convinced the inquiry, against vehement opposition from English Heritage and Historic Royal Palaces, that this building, when placed directly behind St Paul’s Cathedral, would not be an eyesore but a benefit to the City of London. Also fundamental was winning over architect Renzo Piano – a man well known for his distrust of lawyers.

CMS Cameron McKenna

A consistently strong performer in the real estate sector, CMS Cameron McKenna undertook one of the most complex single sale transaction real estate deals of 2003, acting for Taylor Woodrow on the sale of St Katherine’s Estate. The estate comprised 10 main buildings, over 225 occupational tenancies and a marina. The team had to deal with a certificate of title of over 2,500 pages and the resulting complex due diligence process, a large number of occupational tenancies, issues of flood defence issues, river works licences and consent from the environment agency because of the marine, plus 27 volumes of planning materials dating back to the 1970s.

Herbert Smith

Another fine year for the real estate team at Herbert Smith. This year it completed a number of key transactions for client Standard Life, notching up around £500m worth of deals in six months – and in particular the acquisition of a portfolio from Pro Logis. Time was an integral factor in this deal, with partners Michelle Howie and Chris Tavener instructed in the third week of November and with the exchange taking place in the second week of December. Also key was securing the deal for Standard Life in the first place against considerable opposition in the market.

Lawrence Graham

A team that has traditionally kept its light well hidden, Lawrence Graham found itself in the spotlight last year advising on the property aspects of Scottish & Newcastle’s £2.5bn disposal of its pub chain to Spirit Amber. Working alongside Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the 60-strong Lawrence Graham team, under the watchful eye of client relationship partner Paul Walker, carried out a massive due diligence exercise of a portfolio comprising more than 1,400 properties. Working to a highly demanding timescale, the team not only successfully completed all the due diligence, but also negotiated drinks supply and distribution agreements with each of the three bidders, and undertook a number of preliminary corporate reorganisations.


One of the most outstanding real estate deals of the year goes to James Knox and his team at Linklaters for Deutsche Bank’s euro1bn (£661.9m) sale and leaseback to Blackstone Group. In what is the first true major European sale and leaseback, the deal involved nine jurisdictions and over 50 properties. Led out of London, the team negotiated and drafted transaction-wide documents, as well as coordinating the different aspects in each jurisdiction. What is more, the team managed to sign off the deal at 4am on the day England won the Rugby World Cup final – truly a victorious day for both

SJ Berwin

2003 was undoubtedly a fabulous year for SJ Berwin when it came to client Royal Bank of Scotland. In November 2003, it won a place on the bank’s key transactional panel – but the real highlight came when it was instructed to advise on the £1.1bn purchase of Citigroup Tower and 5 Canada Square from Canary Wharf Group. Against the political backdrop of the Canary Wharf Group bid, the team
had to deliver on the largest-ever UK office investment. With Allen & Overy acting on the due diligence aspects of the deal, SJ Berwin proved on this deal that it has what it takes to cut it on the top-notch real estate deal.