In knots over tie-up?

Field Fisher Waterhouse link to Lawrence Graham at odds with former policy

Field Fisher Waterhouse’s (FFW) merger talks with Lawrence Graham (LG) mooted one of those potential deals that raised eyebrows when it emerged but on reflection seemed to make rough sense.

Neither firm has blazed a trail recently, while both have property issues: FFW has been eyeing a move to alternative premises and is close to the end of the lease on its current Vine Street office, while LG has plenty of space in its More London Riverside base.

But it appears that despite the retrospective sense of the possible tie-up, the strategy is a fairly new one for FFW – one that contradicts what has been said at numerous partner conferences of old.

One former partner told The Lawyer: “It was very clearly the policy of the firm that it would not be merging with anyone of [that size],” referring to the firm’s strategy until around two years ago. The ex-partner says the current plan is a “definite shift in policy. It was a clear policy in 2010 not to merge.”

The firm is understood to have considered deals with much smaller firms than the £59m-turnover LG. But a large deal was supposedly off the cards because partners “didn’t want to dilute their roles”.

So what changed? Matthew Lohn came in as managing partner last autumn (and, surely not by coincidence, publicised a major modernisation of the management structure), while a fair number of partners left in 2011. And the firm came closer to the end of its lease, thought to end in 2014. FFW
says it has always considered an appropriate merger, but it appears that something has changed.