Law firm M&A activity focused on non-legal services

Clark: Building on Favell Smith & Lawson’s reputation

Merger and acquisition activity in recent weeks has focused more on complementary, non-legal services rather than straight law firm combinations, our regular round-up shows.

The newest deal, announced this week, falls into the latter category, however, with 14-partner central London law firm RIAA Barker Gillette absorbing two-partner North London property practice Tibber Marks.

The merged firm, called RIAA Barker Gillette incorporating Tibber Marks, creates a full-service law firm with 80 staff focused on the legal needs of high-net-worth individuals and “entrepreneurial and ambitious businesses”.

Alex Deal, managing partner at RIAA Barker Gillette, said the deal “strengthens our real estate offering and widens the services we can offer to our clients”.

Meanwhile, Sheffield and Chesterfield firm Graysons has acquired private client firm Favell Smith & Lawson in Hathersage in the Peak District.

Peter Clark, managing partner of the eight-partner Graysons, said: “Our aim is to build on their exceptional reputation in Hathersage and further develop the private client practice there, as well as to offer other services already available to Graysons’ clients in Chesterfield and Sheffield.”

Also this week, Carlisle law firm Burnetts sold its financial services business to Armstrong Watson, which says it is the only top-30 accountancy firm to have an in-house team of chartered financial planners and in-house asset management expertise.

Burnetts, which also has an office in Newcastle, said its partners had made the strategic decision to focus on legal services; Armstrong Watson has offices in the same locations as Burnetts.

The law firm’s managing partner, Nick Gutteridge, said: “The legal side of our business has been growing consistently over the last few years and this combined with the increasingly complicated regulation of financial services led us to seek a partner to acquire the financial services arm of Burnetts.”

Pioneering listed law firm Gateley has made its 10th acquisition since going public six years ago by adding Tozer Gallagher, a practice of chartered quantity surveyors and construction consultants, to Gateley Vinden, its property and construction consultancy.

Gateley has paid £600,000 up front – with a further £100,000 payable depending on performance in the first year – plus an amount equal to the book value of the assets acquired, expected to be around £115,000.

Gateley acquired the Vinden Partnership in March 2020 for more than £6m.

Tozer Gallagher’s clients include QBE, Euler Hermes, Aviva Insurance and Bank ABC, as well as a number of councils, education trusts and social housing providers. In the year ending 31 May 2021, it had revenues of £1m.

Gateley said the deal would enable Gateley Vinden “to widen the scope of its existing built environment consultancy and fund monitoring services”.

Chief executive Rod Waldie said: “This acquisition sits within the diversification part of our strategy to establish complementary services that support our platform strategy.”

MJ Hudson Group plc – the multi-disciplinary asset management consultancy with a law firm at its heart – has acquired Saffery Champness Fund Services (SCFS), a Guernsey based fund administration business, from the eponymous accountancy group.

The acquisition is expected to double MJ Hudson’s fund administration revenues in Guernsey. SCFS’ largely alternative asset clients have a combined assets under management of £418m.

MJ Hudson is paying up to £2.8m, subject to performance criteria over a two-year period. SCFS generated revenues of £1.4m for the year to March 2021.

Dentons Global Advisors (DGA) – the standalone advisory firm backed by private equity set up by the world’s largest law firm – has announced a deal to buy Interel, a pan-European public affairs consultancy.

DGA was unveiled in June, with strategic advisory firm Albright Stonebridge Group, chaired by former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, the first to join forces with it.

DGA has to be a separate business for regulatory reasons. The law firm has a minority stake in it and will provide support services.

Interel, which will be known as Dentons Global Advisors Interel, has offices in Berlin, Brussels, London, Paris, a presence in New Delhi, and senior advisors throughout the world.

Its chief operating officer, Geoffrey Ghyoot, said: “Joining forces with Dentons Global Advisors provides Interel with a unique opportunity to step up sustainable innovation, growth and value creation. We are excited by the growth prospects, the operational scale and the strong financial profile of the combined entity.”

DGA now has more than 225 professionals across 10 offices in eight countries.

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