Leo Skinner – partner at Freeths LLP - provides a team focus on the Drinks, Hospitality and Leisure department at the firm, its development over the last 30 years and prospects for the future
The hospitality sector is our life blood, having become a market leader in the provision of legal services to brewers, pub, bar, restaurant and hotel operators over the course of almost 30 years.
During this time we have built up an enviable client base, including many national brands with high profile presence in retail centres, high streets and travel hubs.
It is an incredibly exciting time for us, having shown considerable resilience during the difficult years following the banking collapse - and we have unlimited opportunities for growth over the next few years.
To our knowledge we are the only team in private practice whose sole focus is work for this industry, so we pride ourselves on being close to all of the issues which operators face. This means we can provide relevant commercially focused advice, which takes into account clients’ operational priorities.
Our market presence is founded on the personal contacts developed by team members at all levels of seniority; all are encouraged to become involved in business development activities – from generating ideas for articles on the web to attending industry networking events.
What makes the work so interesting is the fact that the whole team provides cross-disciplinary advice to clients. Whilst real estate makes up 70% of the workflow, employment (TUPE), IT/IP, commercial and competition law issues arise on a regular basis. All members of the team (from trainee up to partner level) are trained to deal with all aspects of trading asset transfers for hotels/ pubs/ restaurants/ late night venues and leisure facilities. More specialist advice, such as on share acquisitions or disposals, is provided in conjunction with our corporate team in Milton Keynes, whilst our national IP, construction, tax and planning teams also provide support when needed. This means everyone in the team develops wider insights into commercial law as a whole.
In terms of commercial property, we come across the full range of work that the market can offer, generally acting for occupiers and for operators who self build, but also from the landlord perspective as some of our clients have extensive national estates. The hospitality group, currently comprising 6 lawyers, a trainee and legal assistant, works separately from Freeths' full service real estate team, one of the largest outside London, spread across all 11 offices in our network.
All of our team members have a desire to roll up their sleeves and get involved, whether in transactions or developing new business, and this is very much part of our culture. We are an ambitious, proactive department with a solid work ethic at the heart of what we do.
Fifteen years ago, when I joined the Freeths team, I wanted to make a name for myself by doing something different. I found the hospitality sector, and never regretted it!