Wilde Sapte partners are voting this week on whether they agree to the principle of tying themselves to accountancy firm Arthur Andersen.
An outline proposal to merge with Garretts and hence tie into Arthur Andersen's network of law firms, known as “Project Flowers” was put to partners by the Wilde Sapte managing board at the beginning of last week. It is understood partners asked to postpone the vote for a week for time to consider.
If the vote is in favour a “yes vote” of between 75 and 85 per cent will probably be needed for such a major constitutional change heads of agreement are likely to be signed either this week or next. More detailed proposals will be presented to the partnership later.
One Andersen's source said: “We're obviously very excited about this development.”
At least two Wilde Sapte clients seemed amenable to the idea last week. Robert Gibber, Tate & Lyle senior legal adviser who was formerly an assistant at Wilde Sapte, said that he would have “no problem” with it. But he warned that despite significant investment by the accountancy firms in India and Eastern Europe, the legal arms in those jurisdictions did “not necessarily provide the service” he wanted. English law had to be seen as an international system, he stressed.
The in-house legal adviser of another major client, who asked not to be named, said: “It doesn't bother me personally, it's the people who matter for us, not the link with Arthur Andersen. Good luck to them.”
Wilde Sapte is almost certain to take over Garretts in London and its name is likely to be used to brand Garretts offices in the regions. Wilde Sapte's contentious partners had at one stage been keen to build presences in the regions to match the needs of its banking clients, particularly Nat West. However Nat West later put this work out to smaller regional firms.
The Wilde Sapte name is also likely to be used in offices around the world, particularly Europe and the Far East. Its Hong Kong office will probably take over Andersens' firm Ede Charlton.
In Paris there may be tensions between Archibald Andersen and Wilde Sapte's Paris office.
Wilde Sapte's Paris head partner Thomas McDonald joined from SG Archibald when Andersen's Paris law firm took over Archibald.
Dundas & Wilson will have to remain a technically separate firm to comply with Law Society of Scotland rules.