Tripartite tie-up will form new top 10 national firm

BEACHCROFT Stanleys is in talks with Wansbrough Willey Hargrave and Vaudreys to create the a new national firm 'centred in London', The Lawyer can reveal.

If the tripartite merger does go ahead it would create a top 10 UK firm by size with more than 400 lawyers.

Last week, The Lawyer reported that Wansbroughs was poised to take over Vaudreys.

Since then London-based Beachcrofts' participation in the talks has emerged.

The three parties, all leaders in defendant personal injury, are publicly stressing that the plans are still at an early stage.

A statement issued by Beachcrofts whose senior partner Lord Hunt of Wirral is acting as spokesman for all three said no conclusion had been reached in the talks.

'Should arrangements for a merger be agreed, a further announcement will be made,' it said.

Lord Hunt formerly the Conservative cabinet minister David Hunt said he returned to head the firm in 1995 after serving in the government.

'Since then I have been working quite hard in the profession trying to look forward to the next century and trying to work out what clients would want,' he said.

Research revealed that clients wanted expert advice at a national level. The three firms believe their strength and unique nature will be their London base.

Beachcrofts specialises in three areas: commercial work, insurance and health law. It is on these strengths that the three-way merger will attempt to build on.

Based in the City, Beachcrofts has 121 lawyers. It also has an office in Brussels and an association in Paris.

Wansbroughs with offices in Bristol, Leeds, Birmingham, London, Sheffield and Winchester has 272 fee earners.

Vaudreys, based in Manchester, has 14 partners and 58 associates and assistants.

London-based Beachcrofts could dominate any merger but Lord Hunt said that all three firms were being given an equal say in discussions.

Lord Hunt said the discussions represented a co-ordinated approach to the project, with all three firms equally involved.

Davies Arnold Cooper, which specialises in insurance-related work, has offices in Newcastle and Manchester as well as its London presence. Managing partner David Hertzell said a number of niche firms were now looking at expanding their reach so that they could remain on client panels round the country.

The last significant attempt at a three-way merger was between City players Denton Hall, Cameron Markby Hewitt and McKenna & Co in November 1996. Dentons pulled out at the least minute, leaving the other two to join forces.