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1 October, 2020 - 09:29 By Tony Quested

Cambridge firms dominate Legal 500 biotech and hi-tech rankings

Excellence in advanced technology and the life sciences have turned Cambridge into a world-renowned centre for bleeding edge innovation. 

Together they are arguably the main driver of the local and national economies while continuing to attract investment from big hitting backers across the globe.

This deep well of expertise is handsomely recognised in The Legal 500 client guide published by Legalease, the latest edition of which is published online today.

The guide overarches this segment under the TMT banner – Technology, Media and Telecoms – but then narrows this down to particular specialisms in Biotechnology, Intellectual Property and IT & Telecoms.

The top-rated firm for Biotechnology is the new kid on the block – albeit new kids with old and wise heads: Goodwin.

The Legal 500 reports: “Goodwin's new office in Cambridge joins the ranking having recruited key partners and associates from Taylor Wessing LLP. It now has a deep bench of life sciences and technology specialists with extensive experience in advising some of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies. 

“Their work encompasses complex global licensing and collaboration deals, contract disputes and venture capital financing. Tim Worden, who is 'great to have on your side of the table in a complex negotiation, given his knowledgeable and balanced negotiation style', David Mardle and Malcolm Bates are the lead partners. Associate Talitha Shkopiak moved firms with them.”

Three firms then form a Tier 2 cohort - namely Mills & Reeve, Penningtons Manches Cooper and – despite everything – Taylor Wessing.

The guide says: “The Cambridge office of Mills & Reeve LLP advises biotechnology companies on corporate and commercial transactions, patents and IP, privacy, regulation, compliance, HR, pensions, product liability, dispute management, tax, share options and real estate matters. 

“It acts for numerous small and medium-sized companies, as well as for global organisations such as Alere and ALK Abello. James Fry leads the multi-disciplinary life science practice, in which corporate finance partner Zickie Lim and IP specialist Alasdair Poore play key roles.

James Fry, Mills & Reeve

“Penningtons Manches Cooper has a cross-office biotechnology practice with a significant presence in Cambridge, where commercial IP specialist Rachel Bradley is the lead partner. Her in-house experience at a large pharmaceutical company is a major advantage in the firm's work on commercial agreements for biotechnology companies, which includes complex collaboration agreements. 

“The firm frequently acts for funders and universities in spinouts from academic research groups. Employment partner Hilary Aldred and corporate partner Ross McNaughton, who works in Cambridge and San Francisco, also play key roles.

“Life sciences and technology firm Taylor Wessing LLP saw key partners move to Goodwin in 2019, but retains significant expertise in its Cambridge office. 

“Its team includes lawyers with experience gained with AstraZeneca, Mylan, Gilead, Roche and the Alan Turing Institute. In the biotechnology sector, they handle commercial arrangements, global licensing, complex collaboration deals, and contract disputes. Newly promoted partners Tasmina Goraya and Colin McCall, who splits his time between London and Cambridge, now lead the life sciences practice.”

Inventing technology is one thing but protecting the IP at its heart is entirely another. In this regard, Cambridge is well blessed with specialist Intellectual Property lawyers.

Mills & Reeve, Stobbs IP and Taylor Vinters are bracketed Tier 1 for IP Law. 

A slew of firms share Tier 2 rankings – namely Birketts, Eversheds Sutherland, Goodwin, Hewitsons, Marks & Clerk Law, Penningtons Manches and Taylor Wessing. Greenwoods shares a Tier 3 slot. Mills & Reeve is stand-alone top for IT and Telecoms work with Birketts, Hewitsons and Taylor Vinters joint Tier 2 and Ashtons Legal, Eversheds Sutherland and Greenwoods in Tier 3.

Taking the Tier 1 luminaries, The Legal 500 says: “Mills & Reeve handles IP matters in its core industry sectors – technology, life sciences, automotive, food and agriculture, education and sport. 

“Whether for advisory work or litigation, the firm acts for a national and international client base. Practice head Mark Pearce works in both Leeds and Cambridge, but Cambridge-based head of life sciences James Fry has in-depth knowledge of research and technology collaborations and intellectual property licensing. Alasdair Poore, principal associate Richard Plaistowe and trade mark attorney Nicola Hanglin are also recommended.

“Stobbs IP launched in Cambridge in 2013 and has grown rapidly ever since. A niche intellectual property practice specialising in trade marks and brand management, it focuses on intangible asset management, which covers IP and commercial services, as well as technological solutions. 

“Among its clients are world-leading brands in fashion, technology, publishing, telecoms, social media, food and beverage, finance and sports. The firm now has its own in-house valuation team focused on brand valuation. Founder Julius Stobbs and partners Chris Sleep, litigator Geoff Steward and Chris Hawkes are the key contacts.

'They were very personable and trustworthy and we felt that they were there to protect our company's best interests,' says a client of Taylor Vinters. 

“The firm has particular strength in the life sciences and technology sectors, and there is a strong international component to its work, both advisory and contentious. 

Louisa Dixon, Taylor Vinters

“Working between London and Cambridge, practice head Patrick Farrant, trade mark and brands specialist Louisa Dixon, litigator Gareth Dickson, senior counsel David Rainford, emerging companies partner Chris Keen and senior associate Jo Eales are the main practitioners.”

• For more visit

In the coming days Business Weekly will be rounding up The Legal 500 guide’s take on disciplines such as Employment Law and Real Estate, including commercial property, as well as looking at the most highly recommended lawyers who in The Legal 500 guide’s opinion have achieved great things in the past and have stayed the course, are leading their profession now or are tipped for great things in the future.

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