Practices should be on MDP red alert

The legal profession is facing a period of dramatic change. As accountancy firms creep more and more into the equation, the proposition of a major law firm getting it on with one of the Big Six accountancy firms is no longer out of the question. In fact, it is becoming ever more likely as the carving up of the legal profession begins in earnest.

Despite the current boom, survival is a major issue for all firms. The days of laissez-faire are gone, and firms can only get ahead by exploring every option before them, by thinking the unthinkable. Mergers are one solution but only in the right circumstances. The Addleshaws merger with Booth & Co fits into this category and makes perfect sense for both firms, making them a major force in the north and putting them in the top 20 firms in the UK. The new firm will be the most dominant corporate-led firm in the North with a significant banking practice.

The other discussion of the day – the tripartite merger between McKenna & Co, Denton Hall and Cameron Markby Hewitt – will certainly cause ripples if it comes about, if only because of the nightmarish prospect of merging these three firms. We are all still awaiting the transatlantic merger, which has taken a slight backseat in view of the mergermania that is engulfing English firms at the moment.

But the accountancy firms may well pose the real challenge. All the Big Six are exploring the option, and while one or two are in a dilemma as regards how best to progress, it seems certain that they will find a way, either through a standalone operation or by linking up with a law firm. Either way, it will add a new dimension of competition for law firms, and one which they should be preparing for. Protesting against MDPs may stall for time, but in the long run it is unlikely to serve much purpose. Interesting times are ahead!