Threesomes make uneasy bedfellows

What is it about tripartite mergers? Despite numerous attempts, only ex-Tory minister Lord Hunt of Wirral seems to have been able to pull one off.

And the Beachcrofts and Wansbroughs merger is not really a three-way deal. Poor little Vaudreys up in Manchester was always a tiddler which Wansbroughs had decided to swallow, long before Lord Hunt sauntered onto the scene with a proposal to meld his London spider into Wansbroughs' regional cobweb of offices.

The only other time insurance company lawyers tried to do a geographical tripartite dance – Liverpool's Weightmans, Teeside's Jacksons and London's Kennedys – it all ended in acrimonious and embarrassing tears.

Jacksons and Weightmans remain festering on their respective sides of the Pennines, refusing to face each other, while Weightmans' chief executive, who spearheaded the talks, resigned from his office shortly afterwards.

With all this in mind, why is Denton Hall's Jonathan Tatten so keen on the old tripartite shuffle? When his first attempt to fold his firm into Cameron Markby Hewitt and McKenna & Co failed, he took a month off to soothe his nerves as the two firms he had introduced eagerly got into bed together. Then he peered out from behind his hands as Cameron McKenna soared off the blocks.

Undaunted, he tried the same thing again with Richards Butler and Theodore Goddard. Trouble is, partners at Richards Butler in Hong Kong form a standalone profit centre. They're doing very nicely thank you and do not want to mix with the likes of these Dentons media types. On the other hand, little Theodore Goddard in London could provide a nice City corporate referral source for them.

So once more, Jonathan – the biggest gooseberry in law firm history – has had to hide behind his hands while he sneaks a look at Theodore Goddard and Richards Butler getting it on. Fat Cat just hopes he gets a big finder's fee.