Mergers and Acquisitions within the Leeds Legal Market

December 15, 2015

With the holidays fast approaching and Christmas lights and decorations already up, we could be forgiven for thinking that the Legal Market in Leeds has itself also put its out-of-office on and cheerily waved goodbye until Monday 4th of January (that dreaded date!). We could be forgiven for thinking so but we would also be wrong. November and December, especially, have seen a whole host high profile mergers and acquisitions in the Legal Market, presented just in time to usher in 2016.

We reflect upon the recent Mergers and Acquisitions which have taken centre stage and ask just how much the legal landscape in Leeds will be changed as a result.

Irwin Mitchell & Thomas Eggar:

National Heavyweight meets Regional stalwart. The end of November heralded the merger of Irwin Mitchell and Thomas Eggar, the terms of which will see the latter’s 450 employees (including 67 partners) transfer to and operate under the Irwin Mitchell brand. The combined behemoth will create an eye watering £250 million legal services business and will bolster Irwin Mitchell’s claim that it is fast becoming ‘the legal brand of choice’ in the UK.

LegalZoom & Beaumont Legal:

US Legal Brands trying to make in-roads into the UK market is nothing new – the relatively recent merger of Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs should still be fresh in most minds. However, in a somewhat unexpected move, US-based LegalZoom have recently acquired long-established Wakefield Conveyancing firm Beaumont Legal in an effort to launch LegalZoom UK in early 2016. From initial reports, it seems that LegalZoom UK will be focused on delivering excellence through its blend of technology and experienced legal advice. This merger is testament to the number of opportunities open to residential conveyancers in the past 18 months, given the boom in Residential property work.

Pure Legal Limited & Pryers:

From trans-Atlantic to trans-Pennine mergers next, with North West-based legal investor Phil Hodgkinson (owner of Pure Legal Costs Consultants) buying York-based Clinical Negligence specialists Pryers LLP. The £13 million merger has created an ABS which is to be the first step in Pure Legal’s strategy of acquiring firms to meet the aims of their five year plan.

Clyde & Co / Simpson & Marwick:

Next, we look at a merger which has flown under the radar, relatively speaking. Global Law firm Clyde & Co recently announced that it enhanced its UK client service offering through a merger with leading Scottish firm Simpson & Marwick. With 45 partners, the latter is one of Scotland’s largest law firms and is noted for its distinguished insurance litigation practice. Simpson & Marwick had only recently began making in-roads in the English market, having opened a new office in Leeds in 2014 – it now seems that it will be Clyde & Co who will take advantage of this and will begin establishing itself within the West Yorkshire market.

Weightmans / Ford & Warren:

Finally, we take a brief look at National firm Weightman’s foray into the West Yorkshire market through its acquisition of single office Leeds-based firm Ford & Warren. The latter, established in 1816, will operate under the Weightmans banner and will become its 9th regional office following Birmingham, Dartford, Glasgow, Knutsford, Leicester, Liverpool, London and Manchester. Yet another big regional heavyweight entering the Leeds market.

Whilst the above noted mergers have all involved large firms and practices, we should not forget that a number of independent law firms have also recently been incorporated and are ready to compete for a slice of the legal market thus proving that it isn’t all about consolidation in the market.

Mark Burns, the former managing director of established Leeds-based firm Clarion, has set up “Mark Burns Legal Services”/”MBLS”, a firm dedicated to providing high quality transactional services to local and national clients. Across the Pennines, Kerry Flahive – previously of Cantor Law and DWF – has set up Wilmslow based Flahive Law, a firm specialising in finance litigation, commercial and development work.

 

We would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and look forward to catching up with you in 2016!

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