Regional insurance firm Berrymans Lace Mawer has signed a commercial agreement with 14-partner City firm Druces & Attlee in a bid to provide its clients with a wider portfolio of legal services.`The formal agreement is the first of its kind for Berrymans, which lost more than half of its Liverpool-based commercial department to rival North West firm Brabner Holden Banks Wilson seven months ago. It is believed that the relationship may lead to further link-ups in a bid to create a nationwide network of alliances.`Berrymans senior partner Paul Taylor insisted that the agreement is not a pre-requisite to merger, at least at this stage. "We work well as separate units and both have core skills. But this is a long-term arrangement so who knows what will happen."`In 1997, Berrymans merged with Lace Mawer to create the largest insurance firm in the UK. Sources suggest that since then the commercial practice has been sidelined.`Taylor said: "It's very difficult to grow organically to develop a commercial team, it takes time and investment. This way, clients are offered an immediate quality service from a City firm but at provincial prices."`Richard Monkcom, a member of the Druces management board, described the deal as a "referral arrangement".`The relationship began as a result of the locality of the two firms within Berrymans' London office - Berrymans is on the fourth floor and Druces is on the second.`"When I read about the Liverpool departure I called Paul to ask how we could assist," said Monkcom. "This deal allows Berrymans to provide a full service while maintaining an insurance-based practice."`Druces believes that it will be able to service all of Berrymans' clients throughout the country. Monkcom said: "Berrymans has commercial clients who need commercial advice. The legal market is quite mobile these days and people will instruct solicitors wherever they are."`Monkcom acknowledged that clients in Liverpool may not want to consult a firm in London and admitted that Druces' relationship with Berrymans is principally with the City office.