Notebook: Kennedys needs air traffic control

Kennedys’ purchase of aviation boutique is brave, but must be managed with care

As big insurers demand more bang for their buck, some law firms are responding by trying to be all things to all people while others are building their specialist practices to make inroads into new areas.

Kennedys’ acquisition of aviation boutique Gates & Partners is an example of a firm looking to keep up with the competition.

Senior partner Nick Thomas says the move will allow Kennedys to dedicate itself to the specialism by combining it with its existing expertise. To Gates & Partners senior partner Sean Gates it is an exit strategy, and his retirement will go ahead in the summer.

Gates & Partners was launched in 2003 by three legacy Beaumont & Son partners: Gates, Adosh Chatrath and Daniel Soffin. Beaumont has since disappeared from the profession, having been swallowed up by Clyde & Co in 2005, with partner John Balfour taking 11 partners to Clydes.

This meant that when Clydes started talking about a possible tie-up with with legacy Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) in 2011 – they came together on 1 November 2011 – the firm already had a strong aviation group.

In retrospect, sources suggest that is why the BLG aviation team, considered by many to be one of the jewels in the BLG crown, left for rival Holman Fenwick Willan in October 2011, just weeks before the merger went ahead.

Aviation is a competitive market, particularly for those with an insurance focus. Kennedys’ is a bold move, but now it must be managed carefully.