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CITY firm Field Fisher Waterhouse is to take over highly regarded media and communications specialist Allison & Humphreys early next year.
Field Fisher claims the move will give it one of the biggest media practices in the country, with an expected core team of around 14 lawyers. But other media lawyers claim the firm still has some way to go to enter the circle of leading media firms.
The merged firm, which will keep the Field Fisher Waterhouse name, will be staffed by 57 partners and 130 other fee earners. All 11 partners at Allison & Humphreys, including Tony Ballard, its respected head of communications and media, will move across.
"The telecoms, broadcasting and IT industries are rapidly converging," explained Ballard. "We have telecoms and broadcasting expertise, and they are hot on IT and the Internet. The natural synergy is dramatic."
Charles Humphreys, Allison & Humphreys' senior partner, said the merger would give his firm - whose major clients include the BBC - the opportunity to enlarge its traditional practice.
"This merger will give us the extra clout to seize the opportunities that are emerging as the media and communications industries converge," said Humphreys. "A particular attraction of Field Fisher Waterhouse is its strengths in IT, IP and tax."
Field Fisher managing partner John Nelson-Jones said the merger, first discussed in August this year, provided an "absolutely natural fit".
"This is a natural add-on," he said. "We had some clients in these areas but we wanted to make a quantum leap."
John Enser, partner in charge of multimedia at leading media firm Olswang, said the takeover made sense. "Field Fisher has been trying to make a name for itself in this field recently, particularly in relation to the Internet," he said. "Allisons has a long-established broadcasting reputation which can only be strengthened by this link-up."