Manchester firm Cobbetts is in preliminary talks with Birmingham-based Lee Crowder about developing a tie-up. The two firms have not decided whether to enter full blown merger negotiations but The Lawyer understands that the prospect of a merger is being discussed. At the moment, only a select number of partners from each firm are involved in the talks. One insider said: "The talks are at an extremely preliminary stage. At the moment they are being termed synergy talks rather than merger talks."