It was a difficult decision, but Faithful & Gould's efforts to stay in touch with its clients while expanding around the world kept Franklin + Andrews off the top in this category, sponsored by Hays Montrose
Faithful & Gould

As part of the great WS Atkins charge of the past year or so, Faithful & Gould has increased its fee income 22%, opened nine offices from Aberdeen to Arizona, and boosted its presence in the Far East. The problem with such dashes for growth is that company culture can become diluted and staff and clients can feel that they are dealing with an impersonal organisation. Part of the success of Faithful & Gould is that it has tried to offset this effect by becoming smarter as well as larger. So there has been a reorganisation to align its activities to market segments, rather than the staff's disciplinary training, and new divisions have been formed to offer board-level advice on key areas such as PFI and due diligence. Meanwhile, its attitude to its staff is reflected by its Investors in People status.

Franklin + Andrews

This was an unlucky year for Franklin + Andrews inasmuch as it was a hundredth of a second behind the winning practice, but in other respects things went rather well. UK fee income went up more than one-third, as did staff productivity – a reflection, no doubt, of the firm's exceptionally high reinvestment of profit in IT development and training. The firm's self confidence is justified by the fact that 97% of its work comes from partnerships that include a large number of the UK's top clients.

Davis Langdon & Everest

This is the shortlisted practice with the most loyal staff – they stay with the firm for an average of seven years – which is just as well, as the past year has brought radical changes. As well as continuing its strategy of bolting on niche business – most notably, property tax specialist NBW Crosher & James – it has reorganised its UK business into four regions. And its name has cropped up on many of the year's most interesting schemes, including the Eden Project.

Strong on supply chain issues with a very honest approach to dealing with any customer complaints

Cyril Sweett

What this bunch is capable of is demonstrated by its case study: the £183m West Quay shopping scheme in Southampton. It was built on the basis of a "develop and construct" contract that, uniquely for a large retail development, incorporated partnering standards, such as openness, early consultation and a willingness to get the design right before starting on site. The proof of this pudding was that the project was able to incorporate £40m in scheme changes without putting back the handover date by a minute.