Cross-regulator IP law firm merger breaks new ground

Stein: Real coup

A law firm regulated by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg) has merged with one regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), in what is believed to be the first deal of its kind.

The SRA has granted Leeds-based Kempner & Partners a waiver from the need for run-off cover to enable it to change regulator and join forces with Bristol-headquartered patent and trade mark attorneys Haseltine Lake.

The combined firm, called Haseltine Lake Kempner LLP, offers services across all aspects of IP in all technical disciplines and has almost 200 people in offices in Bristol, Leeds, London, Glasgow, Munich, Limbricht in the Netherlands and Guangzhou in China.

Haseltine Lake was by far the larger of the two firms, with around 160 staff. Its most recent published accounts – to the year to 30 April 2018 – showed a £7m profit on a turnover approaching £33m. Kempner, specialising in IP litigation, brought around 25 staff to the merger.

There are 34 partners in the combined firm, whose clients include Ericsson, Ford, HP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Mars, Nike, Tesco,, JD Sports, Regus, Gianni Versace, Farrow & Ball, Birds Eye, Findus and Wren Kitchens.

The pair have been working together since 2017; the accounts said they wanted to “avoid the silo separation of patent attorneys and lawyers which is so prevalent in the European IP market”.

In a joint statement, they said the merger would “create a new IP powerhouse and a new choice for clients and intellectual property professionals whatever their personal legal qualification”.

Rolf Stein, the CEO of Haseltine Lake and of the merged firm, said: “We see this as a real coup for our clients, who have been telling us for some time that they would like us to be able to offer the full spectrum of IP services, including litigation and IP transactional support.”

Richard Kempner, the senior partner of Kempner & Partners, said the merger represented “the next stage in our growth, development and ability to service our clients’ needs”.

He added: “Others have sought to do this by bolting on individuals, but we believe that the better way is to combine two highly successful practices in a genuine merger, so that we can together build a new, joined up, fully integrated practice.”

Kempner & Partners was advised by specialist law firm Bennett Briegal. Partner Paul Bennett said: “At the outset the SRA identified this was the first merger of its type under the Legal Services Act 2007. Credit goes to both regulators as they have through us worked with our clients and the other parties to ensure both the SRA and IPReg could progress this deal.

“It has been months in the planning and execution, but legal services innovation is now achieved with specialist intellectual property solicitor litigators now being part of a niche intellectual property practice. To plan and execute an innovation of this type has been great fun.

“It creates an intellectual property powerhouse which aims to serve clients across the divide of the traditional professions. It is a true fusion of distinct professions evolving into one for the benefit of clients and the careers of lawyers.”

KMPG Legal acted for Haseltine Lake on the transaction but not the regulatory aspect.

In 2017, the Legal Services Board approved a new SRA rule that means firms changing regulator do not need run-off cover where their new regulator has signed a bilateral protocol with the SRA. To date, only the Council for Licensed Conveyancers has done so, meaning a waiver was needed here.

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