Gowling adds seven-strong team from Womble Bond Dickinson for Leeds launch

Team led by partner Julia Dacre Field joins Gowling’s housing development practice

Anglo-Canadian firm Gowling WLG has launched in Leeds with the hire of a seven-strong team from UK rival Womble Bond Dickinson. 

The team has joined Gowling’s housing development and regeneration (HDR) practice and is led by partner Julia Dacre Field, who brings more than 20 years of experience in the sector and headed Womble Bond’s Leeds-based housebuilder team. 

The rest of the team includes legal directors Kathryn Wood and James Lawson, counsel Mark Owen, principal associates Patrick Jackson and Emma Speight and senior associate Liam Turne. 

“The opportunity to work with Julia and her team for top-tier HDR clients in Leeds and the north of the UK, many of which Gowling WLG has also acted for over many years, is a fantastic opportunity," said Chris Hunt, head of real estate at Gowling. He added that the team’s arrival would benefit both the firm’s clients and its growth ambitions. 

Dacre Field has acted for house builders, landowners and public bodies on major residential developments, regeneration schemes and residential-led mixed use projects. She has spent the past five years as a partner in Womble Bond’s real estate team and earlier was an associate at Yorkshire firm Shulmans and legacy firm Eversheds. 

At Gowling, Dacre Field and her team will be based in Leeds and will work closely with national head of HDR Ashley Mitchell and senior HDR partner Richard Bate, who previously led the firm’s real estate team. 

Gowling currently has 11 partners in its UK development and regeneration practice amid a wider team of 50 lawyers and 125 fee earners. Standout work has included advising St Mowden Developments on its joint venture with Vinci Plc in relation to the £2bn redevelopment of the New Convent Garden Market in London and advising a consortium of developers on the acquisition of 1,200 acres of land near Plymouth for the new town of Sherford. 

Meantime, the firm’s broader real estate practice is ranked Tier 1 by The Legal 500 and boasts some of the UK’s largest housebuilders as clients, among them Taylor Wimpey and Grainger, the latter of whom was a client of Dacre Field’s at Womble Bond. 

The hire of the Womble Bond team hands Gowling, which was formed in 2016 through the merger of British firm Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co and Canadian giant Gowlings, its third location in the UK after Birmingham and London. It also sees the firm join the likes of Addleshaw Goddard, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Pinsent Masons, Squire Patton Boggs and Walker Morris as well as Womble Bond in having a base in Leeds. 

Leeds-based Womble Bond partner Claire Brook, who also sits on the firm’s board and heads the real estate business group, said real estate remains one of the firm’s key sectors and “very much at the heart” of its Leeds offering. 

"We are fully committed to our ongoing development in Leeds and have recruited a number of lawyers in recent months to bolster the overall service we can provide to our housing clients. They will play a key role in our future growth plans, seeing us continue to support both the Yorkshire business and wider regional community,” she added. 

In the summer Gowling expanded in the UAE by launching an office in Abu Dhabi, its second location there after Dubai. The move followed the firm entering into an association with Saudi Arabian law firm Al Ghazzawi Professional Association last summer.

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