James Chapman splits between Halliwells and Brabners

Halliwells and Manchester personal injury specialist James Chapman & Co are to merge in the North West’s most significant legal development for years.

However James Chapman’s 19-strong commercial team, including senior partner Maurice Watkins and his trophy client Manchester United, has chosen to join Brabners Chaffe Street in a £2m boost for the firm’s commercial practice.

Both mergers will complete on 1 May, following negotiations lasting just six weeks.

James Chapman will add £10m to Halliwells’ projected 2005-2006 turnover of just over £60m, creating a total income of more than £70m and pushing Halliwells well into the UK’s top 40 law firms.

Watkins will become joint senior partner of Brabners’ Manchester office alongside Robert Street, and will also be joining the firm’s six-strong management board.

Halliwells managing partner Ian Austin said: “If you can build with good firms, it’s something you ought to consider.”

Thirty James Chapman partners are joining Halliwells, but just four will enter the firm’s tightly-held equity. Another 50 fee-earners will move with them.

The merger follows a year of swift growth, beginning with the firm’s January 2005 tie-up with Liverpool’s Cuff Roberts. Once it is complete, Halliwells will have well over 160 partners across its four offices in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and London.

Austin said that the latest merger would be a significant benefit to Halliwells and would help succession planning in its small insurance team.

Brabners managing partner Michael Brabner said the commercial team was “highly compatible” with his firm, which works for clients such as Manchester City Football Club.

“We’re particularly pleased that they’ve chosen us. Any firm would have been delighted to have them,” said Brabner.

He added that Brabners was on target to exceed £20m in turnover for the current financial year, up from £17.1m last year. The firm’s Manchester office will move into new, expanded premises in June.