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Historic agricultural law firm expands ahead of Brexit

Wright Hassall’s agricultural team has been boosted by the arrival of Joel Woolf, Vanessa Blane and Jon Clifford

A firm with more than 170 years of history in agricultural law has expanded to prepare for ‘fundamental change’ in the sector after Brexit.

Leamington Spa-based Wright Hassall is now gearing up for a huge sector shake up after the UK leaves the EU next April.

In both the recently published Legal 500 and Chambers UK legal directories the agricultural team has retained its top tier ranking, with Paul Rice, Alex Robinson, Joel Woolf, and Sarah Beer all cited as notable practitioners in Chambers.

Feedback noted that staff have ‘an unrivalled knowledge around matters associated with development and reinvestment’ and that ‘they’re technically excellent lawyers.’

As the firm prepares to help its farming and rural estate clients prepare for their post-Brexit future, it has brought three new agricultural specialists on board with a strong understanding of the sector and Wright Hassall’s history within it.

Joel Woolf, a farmer’s son from Suffolk, has joined as partner from Foot Anstey in the South West advising on succession and business continuity, while Vanessa Blane joins as a senior solicitor from the Canal & River Trust to concentrate on HS2 and other compulsory purchase or planning matters.

Jon Clifford, who joins from Lanyon Bowdler, heads up the Rural Disputes’ team.

According to the team the Agriculture Bill, which has just had its second reading, will play a key part in shaping the future of the farming industry.

The bill has been described as an outline of Britain’s post-Brexit farming policy and one of the main concerns raised is that laws are set to be more susceptible to change based on political ideology.

This is due to an increase in powers and decision making abilities being given to the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Joel said: “The fear with all the powers being granted to the Secretary of State is that political ideology takes over the decision making processes, and a succession of different people in the position could see a procession of changes to regulation and policy.

“This would introduce an unwelcome element of instability to an industry that already has to cope with meteorological uncertainty and market volatility.

“We are in a period where the face of the sector is set to fundamentally change.

“With Brexit on the horizon, there are sure to be plenty of big decisions being made which will impact on every rural business from small family farms upwards.

“Wright Hassall’s long history of acting for the farming industry just shows why it is such a perfect place for me to continue my career in this sector which I care passionately about.”

Wright Hassall’s agricultural team advises a range of farmers, landowners, rural businesses and farming-related organisations on all their legal matters and has close connections with the National Farmers Union, Country Land and Business Association, Warwickshire Rural Hub CIC and Warwickshire Farm Management Group.

The firm’s annual agricultural conference will take place on December 5 this year, bringing together the team and a number of top speakers, including Adam Henson, whose Cotswold farm is home to many rare breeds and who is one of the BBC’s lead presenters on Countryfile.

Paul Rice the firm’s Senior Partner, who heads up the Wright Hassall agriculture team alongside partner, Alex Robinson, said: “We are delighted to welcome Joel, Vanessa and Jon on board at Wright Hassall.

“We are looking forward to introducing them to our clients and professional contacts over the coming weeks and particularly at our December talk.

“Their experience in the sector will help to consolidate our agricultural offering to existing and new clients as one of the strongest in the country.”