Bond Pearce and Bristol-based firm Cartwrights have announced plans to merge from 1 July, but will spin out Cartwrights’ insurance litigation practice as an independent partnership.`The firms have been discussing a merger since December 2000. Cartwrights managing partner Christopher Eskell said the firm talked to a number of possible merger partners before reaching an agreement. Insurance firm Berrymans Lace Mawer is believed to have been among the suitors, but Eskell would not confirm this.`The merged firm, to be called Bond Pearce, totals 63 partners, 11 from Cartwrights. It will have a combined turnover of some £30m.`Bond Pearce managing partner Simon Richardson will become managing partner of the new firm, while Eskell will join a newly-formed management board.`Richardson said the main drivers for the merger were the firms’ complementary practice areas in retail, leisure and regulatory work. “It creates an enhanced local capability, which is a platform for further development, especially where we service clients in similar market sectors to Cartwrights,” he said.`Bond Pearce’s Bristol office has doubled since opening in 1998. It also has offices in Plymouth, Exeter, Southampton, Leeds and London.`Eskell said size was the main driver for his firm. He said: “All three aspects of the business are robust and profitable, but it’s reached a stage where the resources of a larger firm will allow us to develop our commercial practice, while our insurance practice needs greater independence and focus to achieve its business objectives.`”We looked at the strategic business objectives that we wanted to achieve and concluded that it was not in the interests of both insurance departments [to merge]. My partners’ perceptions are that there’s a role for a niche insurance practice, and their clients have confirmed to them that that is the way they see things going forward.”`It is believed that Berrymans is still in talks with Cartwrights’ insurance department.