Norwich firm Fosters is merging with local firm Russell Steward to create a 14-partner firm.
Fosters, which won UK Law Firm of the Year (medium size) at The Lawyer Awards 1999, will gain three partners and a number of offices in Norfolk and Suffolk. The merger will come into effect on 2 July, but the firm will keep the Fosters name. Russell Steward's focus is on private client work, and Fosters managing partner Andrew Saul says the merger is a good fit. "Traditionally we've been a litigation firm, whereas Russell Steward had a bias towards non-contentious and property work. The firm sits well with our family practice and both have a strong reputation in mediation," he said. However, Saul denies that the firm is trying to move away from litigation work. He said: "We'll continue to grow litigation, but we'll also broaden our client base." Fosters' business strategy is to double in size over the next five years and Saul says that the merger takes the firm some way towards achieving this goal. Critical mass is essential for both firms, but the timing is more critical for Russell Steward, which has only three partners. Saul says that had Russell Steward remained independent, it would have found the market increasingly difficult over the next couple of years. Russell Steward managing partner William Armstrong said: "We wanted to take our business to its next phase of growth, but we realised that we'd need the resources of a larger firm. Therefore, it made perfect sense to put our two firms together." Despite its proximity to Ipswich and Cambridge, Norwich is an insular market and it is unusual for lawyers to come from outside the city. Its main industry is financial services; influential businesses there include Norwich Union and Virgin Direct. Fosters' clients include Anglo Welsh Group, Highway Glass and estate agent Abbots. But Saul says Fosters will benefit from the clients that come with Russell Steward. "They have good clients that will hopefully become clients to the whole firm," he said. Saul will remain as managing partner, but there are expected to be changes to the four-party board of management that will reflect the merger.