In 2010, after several years without any mergers, two came along at once for Wilson Browne.
In February the Northampton-based firm took on Wellingborough high street practice Smith Chamberlain. Then last month it merged with Leicester firm Queens Solicitors, bringing founder and dispute resolution specialist Parvien Akhtar on board as a partner.
“Our branch network is primarily the result of these mergers and others stretching back to the end of the 1990s,” says finance director Philip Hobbs, adding that Wilson Browne’s latest flurry of deals is due to the changing legal landscape, epitomised by the introduction of the Legal Services Act.
“We recognise that in the brave new world we’re entering, you need critical mass,” he says. “You need more clout, better specialisms and financial strength.”
Last year Wilson Browne took a slight knock to the latter, with revenue dipping by around 2 per cent to £6.25m. Hobbs says that with this year’s mergers, plus the slow but steady return of core markets such as residential and commercial property, the firm is budgeting for a revenue rise of around 3.5 per cent. That said, he admits it is unlikely the firm is about to go on a merger spree. Indeed, in the depths of the recession the firm, which once had eight offices, closed two, in Rushden and Corby.
“This wasn’t about cutting headcount,” Hobbs insists. Indeed, Wilson Browne is looking to grow headcount, particularly at assistant level, although as Hobbs points out, “this is a partner-led firm”.
Wilson Browne has five core areas of practice. Private client and family, both of which contribute around 25 per cent of total revenue, are the largest. These are followed by civil litigation and commercial. The recession-hit residential property sector brings up the rear.
Finance director: Philip Hobbs
Number of partners: 29
Number of equity partners: 20
Number of lawyers: 44
Number of fee-earners: 60
Main practice areas: Civil litigation, commercial, family, private client
Number of offices: Six
Locations: Higham Ferrers, Kettering (two), Leicester, Northampton, Wellingborough
Key clients: Beaucrest Packaging, East Midlands Housing Association, Heygate & Sons, Saxon Lifts