It’s been 12 months since I joined Hay & Kilner Law Firm’s award-winning commercial property team – and as I’m sure you’d all agree, the last year has been quite something!
In February of 2020, I wrote that “any lockdown on a UK major city would create a legal storm. Tenants unable to pay rents, businesses wound up, suppliers going unpaid, employees without jobs – all doomsday scenario talk, but the financial and social implications of a pandemic are huge, alongside the obvious health concerns.”
Little did I know that the doomsday scenario would soon become reality, albeit clearly the government has stepped in to introduce a raft of emergency measures, such as moratoriums on forfeiture for non-payment of rent, the infamous furlough scheme and SDLT reliefs in the residential market, which themselves would create a number of challenges for our clients who had to react quickly to them.
Thankfully, Hay & Kilner’s full-service offering has ensured we’ve been well placed to help them navigate those particular issues throughout the course of the pandemic with our residential property, litigation and employment teams providing key advice throughout.
While there have undoubtedly been challenges along the way as we’ve all got used to new ways of working and dealt with the different parameters that have impacted on every aspect of our lives, there have also been many successful and notable deals transacted across the firm.
Highlights include the sale of family-run AWL Inspection & NDT Services to Warrington-based British Engineering Services Group, the acquisition of the North Shields-based operation of Scottish fishing and offshore business Caley Fisheries by local entrepreneur Andy Dixon and the sale of Hodgson Motor Group’s North East car dealerships to the Stoneacre Motor Group.
Interestingly, those transactions were initiated and completed by our multi-disciplinary teams, involving members of our corporate & commercial, employment, and commercial property teams working predominately on a remote basis.
As restrictions continue to be lifted (at time of writing), there does appear to be a growing appetite for a mixture of remote and office working, as opposed to some early calls of “the office is dead”.
Indeed, we are currently instructed by a number of clients who, rather than looking to exit their current premises altogether, are looking at re-gearing leases to take less space, making more efficient use of existing premises and benefiting from well-incentivised deals with landlords keen to ensure there is no void and exposure to business rates liabilities.
In addition to the firm’s client successes, Hay & Kilner has continued to attract a range of new recruits over the past year to meet the demand for our services, with experienced practitioners joining our commercial property, private client, clinical negligence and family law teams to further strengthen the quality and breadth of service that we can provide.
From my own team’s point of view, it’s gratifying that our work has been recognised by being shortlisted in the Property Law Firm of the Year category of the Insider North East Property Awards for a second successive year.
The pandemic will continue to create or exacerbate specific issues for individual clients which will require addressing, whether this be refinancing existing portfolios, providing continued employment support on flexible working requests, ensuring safe working environments or supporting our Landlord and Tenant clients on lease negotiations – there will be much to ponder for all business owners around their plans for the next year.
Whilst Boris Johnson has indicated an “irreversible roadmap” is now in place, the impact of the pandemic is undoubtedly going to be long-lasting and it is difficult to predict exactly what the next year will have in store.
But with the existing expertise, full-service offering and a multitude of new experienced recruits, we are confident that clients and our professional network will continue to place their trust and legal services with Hay & Kilner.