Mergers keep coming despite coronavirus crisis

Harrison: City litigation start-up

The coronavirus crisis has not stopped a series of mergers taking place across the country in recent weeks, as well as specialist law firms starting up.

Top 100 law firm Birketts, which is headquartered in Ipswich, merged with London boutique insurance law firm EC3 Legal on 30 April, with building on the latter’s international relationships a key factor in the deal. EC3 has 20 staff members supporting around 200 clients.

Birketts chief executive Jonathan Agar said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for Birketts to build on the impressive strides we have already made and establish a London presence.

“The specialist services provided by EC3 Legal are ones that fit seamlessly in to Birketts’ full service offering as we look to extend our geographical reach while remaining committed to our East Anglian roots.”

Essex and Suffolk firm Ellisons has merged with Ipswich firm Blocks Solicitors, giving it a second office in the town. Blocks equity partners Andrew Fleming and Frances Barker will continue as partners at Ellisons.

Mr Fleming said: “There is a lot of synergy between Ellisons Solicitors and Blocks, and our service offerings and firm cultures are a near perfect match.”

Peterborough-based Buckles has its fifth UK office after acquiring Cambridge-based Miller Sands, expanding the range of services the latter offers.

Chief executive Duncan Jackson said: “With offices located in Peterborough, London, Nottingham and Stamford, the acquisition of Miller Sands reflects the next step in Buckles’ continued growth.”

South coast firm Churchers Solicitors has boosted its presence on the Isle of Wight by merging with Walter Gray, which has offices in Ryde and Cowes.

Ian Robinson, Churchers’ managing partner, said: “This move will give island residents the same high-quality service they have always received but they will now have access to a wider range of services and resources.”

In Salisbury, Sampson Coward has merged with Whitehead Vizard to create a 15-lawyer practice.

Yorkshire firm LCF Law has acquired Wakefield firm Crooks Commercial Solicitors, with owner Michael Crook returning to LCF as a partner, having previously worked there for seven years.

Mr Crook said he had maintained “a strong relationship” with LCF Law while running his firm, often cross-referring clients.

The merger between Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins, creating Moore Barlow, went live last week.

The South-East business has a turnover of almost £40m, comprising 69 partners, 272 lawyers and legal professionals, and a total staff of nearly 500 across offices in Guildford, London, Lymington, Richmond, Southampton and Woking.

Firms are still starting up despite the pandemic. Marc Keidan, co-founder of City firm Cooke Young Keidan, has left to set up another City boutique dispute resolution firm, Keidan Harrison, with Luke Harrison, head of commercial litigation at northern home counties firm Debenhams Ottaway.

They described the new practice as “an innovative, vibrant, conflict-free and value-driven alternative to traditional full-service firms”.

Ex-Irwin Mitchell lawyers Anne-Marie Irwin, Polly Sweeney and Alex Rook have launched specialist public law and human rights firm Rook Irwin Sweeney, based in London and Bristol.

It focuses on education, health and social care, Court of Protection and judicial review, and will work with Scott Moncrief and Associates to handle publicly funded work.

In a statement, they said: “We understand that this is an incredibly difficult time for the country, and especially for children and adults who are disabled. The emergency Coronavirus Act 2020 and other government measures significantly weaken the fundamental legal rights of our clients.

“As a firm, we are extremely well placed to support our clients through the challenging times that we will face in the weeks and months ahead.”

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