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Clarke Willmott breaks out of West Country with £20m Southampton link-up
Bristol and Taunton firm Clarke Willmott & Clarke has taken its first step out of the West Country by merging with Southampton firm Ensor Byfield. The move is part of Clarke Willmott's strategy to expand into new commercial centres. Ensor Byfield has a small London office for defendant insurance work, but this is due to be closed after the firm decided that it did not require a London base. Five Ensor Byfield partners join Clarke Willmott's merit-based system. They bring 25 other fee-earners with them, creating a new network with a turnover in excess of £20m. Clarke Willmott's turnover last year was £15.7m. John Byfield is the only partner not to join the merged partnership. He is developing his own sports management company, Essentially Sport, but will be retained as a consultant to the law firm. Senior partner Rod Evans will join the Clarke Willmott management board. The merger brings together two highly-rated sports law teams. Clarke Willmott focuses on rugby, cricket, golf and football, with clients including the Professional Cricketers' Association, the Professional Rugby Association, the British Lions Squad and individuals including Jeremy Guscott. Ensor Byfield has a particular focus on motor sports, representing Formula 1 drivers including Jenson Button, and commercial interests in Formula 1, Formula 3, Formula 3,000 and Le Mans 24-hour. Ensor Byfield also adds expertise in defendant insurance litigation and the merged firm plans to grow its commercial property and housebuilder work from the Southampton base. Clarke Willmott managing partner David Sedgwick, who heads the merged firm, said: "Our businesses are highly complementary. Joining forces presents both teams with opportunities to break into important new markets, and together we have created a formidable specialist sports unit with a national perspective." Financial services partner Philip Tebbatt is the first of a number of Clarke Willmott partners to relocate to Southampton. Individual hires and bolt-on teams are planned.