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North West firm Hill Dickinson and shipping specialist Hill Taylor Dickinson last week returned to their roots with the announcement that they are to merge on 1 November 2006, creating a £69m business.
The two firms were both part of Hill Dickinson until 1989, when they split due to diverging strategies. Hill Dickinson was moving into the North West, while Hill Taylor Dickinson preferred to concentrate on international expansion.
That strategy has paid off for Hill Dickinson, but Hill Taylor Dickinson's international ambitions were scuppered when it lost its Dubai office to Holman Fenwick & Willan in November 2005.
The renewed tie-up was initiated by Hill Taylor Dickinson, which decided that diversification would be more profitable than its current reliance on marine and insurance law.
"We felt that we wanted a wider business," said Hill Taylor Dickinson managing partner Malcolm Taylor. "Our shipping clients are getting more sophisticated and we needed to be able to resource their growth and their diversification."
While Hill Taylor Dickinson gains Hill Dickinson's expertise in areas such as property, employment and commercial law, Hill Dickinson gains a far bigger London office, adding 19 partners to the 13 it currently has in the capital.
Hill Dickinson managing partner Peter Jackson said: "We wanted to strengthen our London office. We were becoming lopsided in terms of structure and in danger of our younger people perhaps thinking we weren't committed to investment in London. The essential thing for our side was that we wanted the people there now."
Nevertheless, shipping remains a key feature for the revamped Hill Dickinson. The firm will have a marine practice of more than 80 lawyers, making it one of the largest in the UK. The two firms have a distinguished pedigree in shipping law, with a number of the most high-profile catastrophes in history on the case list. For example, Hill Dickinson's then senior partner Sir Norman Hill acted for the White Star Line, owners of The Titanic, after the ship's tragic loss in 1912.
Hill Dickinson has also developed in other areas, including media and sport, property and healthcare.
The combined firm will be known as Hill Dickinson, with Hill Dickinson's current senior partner Tony Wilson and managing partner Jackson retaining their roles. Members of Hill Taylor Dickinson's management team will join the restructured board.
In total, eight of Hill Taylor Dickinson's 22 partners will become full equity partners at Hill Dickinson, maintaining the firm's 35 per cent equity ratio.
Jackson estimated that the combined firms will bring in around £64m by the end of the financial year, taking into account the fact that it is a half-year merger. Their combined budget for the current year totals £69m, propelling Hill Dickinson comfortably into the top 40 UK law firms.
Jackson said the firm has no plans for "jurisdiction shopping", being content with Hill Taylor Dickinson's Piraeus office, but that lateral and team hires in London are likely.