Berrymans Lace Mawer scraps brand as HBM Sayers merger goes live

Berrymans Lace Mawer has scrapped its brand in favour of BLM as the insurance firm completes the takeover of Scottish firm HBM Sayers today.

The acquisition was announced in March and will give BLM its first presence in Scotland with the addition of HBM’s offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh. HBM’s small London office will also become part of BLM (17 March 2014).

Senior partner Mike Brown told The Lawyer that combining the two firms had been made easier because of their similar equity structures and appraisal systems for partners. BLM launched a new structure on 1 April installing an executive board, which consists of Brown and eight elected partners who are responsible for strategy and policy. Seperately, Brown confirmed that nine HBM Sayers partners would be moving into the equity at BLM as part of the merger.

BLM will operate under a newly written up partnership agreement to reflect the rationalised system of decision-making. Brown described the new structure and approach as an attempt to “blend a corporate structure with a partnership ethos”.

The executive board was elected by the entire partnership including HBM Sayers, which elected its representative HBM chairperson David Taylor.

Brown said some decisions will still go to a full partnership vote and there remains scope in the partnership agreement for decisions to be challenged “rather like shareholders can in a corporate”.

While Brown conceded that consolidation would not be an ongoing trend at the firm he commented: “We have our eyes on one or two more opportunities, which will complete the picture,” he said.

This is the first merger at BLM since legacy firms Berrymans and Lace Mawer combined in 1997 (18 February 1997), although the firm did acquire a partner and seven staff from Morgan Cole in December (15 November 2013).

Last year HBM had been in the frame as a second Scottish merger candidate for DWF, with sources in the Scottish legal market saying the 16-partner firm had been in talks with the acquisitive insurance heavyweight early last year (18 January 2013).

In other recent Scottish market moves, Kennedys had been pursuing a merger with Simpson Marwick until the deal was called off citing ‘complex reasons’ at the end of last year (11 December 2013).