Bolt-ons and regional deal buck quiet M&A market

Emden: Wider access to international markets

Merger and acquisition activity has been slow in the first quarter of 2023, but there have been niche bolt-ons, a Kent merger and a chambers merger too.

National firm Shakespeare Martineau announced today that has bolstered its company secretarial offering after folding specialist business Bruce Wallace Associates into its brand.

The five new staff, including directors Susan Wallace and Martha Bruce – both Fellows of the Chartered Governance Institute – are joining Shakespeare Martineau rather than continuing to operate under their own name as part of the wider Ampa group, with its ‘house of brands’ strategy.

Ms Wallace said: “Martha and I believe this is an excellent move for us and our clients, who will benefit from continuity of service and the 1,200-strong team of experts available across Shakespeare Martineau and the Ampa group. We are keen to grow our team and client base, and the infrastructure Shakespeare Martineau offers will enable us to do just that.”

Foot Anstey has established its first presence outside of the South and South-West by acquiring part of Clarke Wilmott’s intellectual property team, based in Manchester.

The five-strong team, led by partner Roy Crozier, is active in the retail sector, which is a core focus for Foot Anstey.

Mr Crozier said he had previously trained and worked with Paul Cox, Foot Anstey’s head of intellectual property “and I know that the merging of the two practices will be a great success”.

Meanwhile, London firm Howard Kennedy has acquired international construction law boutique Corbett & Co. A team of seven lawyers moved over, including three new partners, while the eponymous Edward Corbett joined as a consultant. It takes Howard Kennedy to 59 partners.

Managing partner Craig Emden said the deal would “enable wider access to international markets and sectors we don’t currently serve”.

Multi-office Kent firm Boys & Maughan is merging with Canterbury-based Gardner Croft next month, creating a firm with 180 staff initially spread across seven sites, although Boys & Maughan will close one of its two Canterbury offices in the summer and move staff into Gardner Croft’s office. That office will trade as ‘Boys & Maughan incorporating Gardner Croft’.

Tim Townsend, Richard Giles and Joanna Illingworth, the current partners with Gardner Croft – there are nine other fee-earners – will become partners in the amalgamated practice.

Also in Canterbury, a rare merger at the Bar from today, with Pump Court Chambers taking on the 15 members of Stour Chambers in the city, along with three members of staff, taking Pump Court to 120 barristers and 24 members of staff in all.

Pump Court already has chambers in London, Swindon and Winchester. In a statement, it said “the move follows a long-standing working relationship between the two sets, with barristers across both chambers working on a number of significant cases together over many years”.

Pump Court head of chambers Oba Nsugbe KC SAN (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) said: “This decision is a reflection of our ambitious plans to invest in the future by adding to the depth and reach of the high quality advocacy and advisory services available from our four different locations across the south.”

Listed law firm the Ince Group said on Friday that the £1.3m disposal of its “non-core” Bristol-based claimant personal injury and clinical negligence practice to Enable Law – first announced in January – has completed.

We reported last month that Stowe Family Law had bought Watson Thomas, a three-partner, 13-lawyer family practice with offices in Hampshire and Surrey, in one of the few other deals so far this year.

Meanwhile, in different growth news, Manchester law firm Veritas Solicitors said it was looking to add 150 staff, both legal and management, to the 118 it already has in just six months.

Currently specialising in housing disrepair, financial mis-selling, personal injury and clinical negligence amongst others, Veritas said it wanted to build up its immigration, industrial disease, commercial and employment law offering.

Managing partner Faraz Fazal: “We are already a large firm, but what this means is, we will be able to represent more clients and bring justice to more people, which has always been our goal.

Mr Fazal said the firm, which he acquired in 2013, has already grown rapidly, tripling in size in the last two years. “Once I had that base of 30-40 people [in 2021], I knew I could build on it.”

He explained that, for every person he had trained, they could hire one or two more whom they could train.

He said housing disrepair was the practice area he had focused on to replace low-value personal injury claims affected by the Official Injury Claim portal.

“PI is still a serviceable area but it’s not what it used to be,” he said. As it has become more of an administrative process, he had turned to housing disrepair because it still allowed for “legal interpretations”.

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