South of England firm Blake Lapthorn has announced that it is merging with Oxford-based Linnells to create a 79-partner firm. The merger will take effect from 1 May 2003 and the merged firm will be known as Blake Lapthorn Linnell. Blake lapthorn, which has offices in Fareham, Portsmouth, Southampton and London, gains 22 partners in Oxford through the merger. Linnells is known for its charities, construction, asset finance litigation and alternative dispute resolution work. Blake Lapthorn's current senior partner Carey Blake and managing partner Walter Cha will keep their roles at the merged firm. Linnells' senior and managing partners will join the board. Cha commented: "This merger will allow us to deliver a truly regional service. The skills currently available to the two firms are extremely complementary and going forward this will benefit clients of the merged practice." Jonathan Lloyd-Jones, senior partner of Linnells, said: "Both firms are committed to further strategic growth and the merger provides a wider geographical base in which to develop the legal services of the merged firm. The new firm will have almost 600 staff. There will be a number of relocations to Oxford in order to aid integration.