Merger and acquisition make South East new battleground

Ed Whittington and Helen Goatley

The South East has suddenly become a new legal battleground after a £40m merger between Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins followed listed firm Knights’ entry into the region.

Set to begin trading as Moore Barlow from 1 May, the new firm will comprise 70 partners, 272 lawyers and other legal professionals, and a total staff of nearly 500 across offices in Southampton, Guildford, Woking and Lymington, as well as two locations in London (Richmond and the City).

Moore Barlow will have a combined turnover of almost £40m, propelling it easily into the top 100. It will also be the sole UK legal advisor within Ecovis, an international network of more than 7,500 lawyers, accountants and consultants.

Companies House records show that Moore Blatch recorded income of £26.7m in 2018/19, with a profit of £5.5m and net debt of £7.8m. As at 30 April 2019, it had 23 members of the LLP and 254 other staff. It made more than £1.7m net from Aspire Law.

Barlow Robbins saw a profit of £2.8m on turnover of £13.1m, and it had 152 staff, as of 31 May 2019.

Yesterday we reported that Knights was spending up to £8.5m to buy ASB Law, based in Crawley and Maidstone, which has 89 fee-earners and a turnover of £12.2m.

Knights said the deal represented its entry into “the strategically attractive South East market, which is estimated to be valued at £246m excluding London”.

It added: “[ASB] is well located to recruit high-calibre talent, including lawyers that no longer wish to commute to London.”

Moore Blatch is involved in two unusual alternative business structures (ABS). In 2014, it teamed up with national spinal injury charity Aspire to launch Aspire Law, a specialist spinal cord injury practice and the first ABS of its kind.

More recently, we reported that it was one of three owners of Escalate, an ABS handling SME commercial disputes referred by firms of accountants.

Ed Whittington, managing partner of Moore Blatch, said: “There is a unique opportunity to bring together the absolute best of our two organisations – both outstanding firms with deep regional roots, strong areas of specialism, and dedicated teams of exceptional talent.”

Helen Goatley, chair of Barlow Robbins, added: “Today’s top talent want the right mix of a stimulating, rewarding career alongside a fulfilling work-life balance, an experience which we feel Moore Barlow will be uniquely suited to offer, and from which our clients can only benefit.”

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