Veale Wasbrough in merger talks with Hewitsons

Merger talks are under way between Veale Wasbrough Vizards and Hewitsons to create a £34m turnover “national powerhouse” in education, charities and private client.

A joint statement between Veale’s managing partner Simon Heald and Cambridge-based Hewitsons managing partner John Dix said the firms have been in “detailed discussions” on the back of similar strengths in particular sectors.

A combined entity would be placed just outside the top 70 UK firms within The Lawyer UK200 in terms of turnover, bringing 300 lawyers and staff from Veale’s Bristol and London offices together with 180 from across Hewitsons’ Cambridge, Northampton and Milton Keynes offices.

Neither firm would reveal how long they have been in merger talks, but both Heald and Dix stressed that a tie-up would “strengthen regional practices” and give clients “increased reach and deeper expertise”.

No final decision has been made as senior management weigh up the benefits for partners, staff and clients.

Dix said: “Combining our distinctive commercial practices with national sector specialisations is a compelling and exciting proposition. We are reviewing in detail the opportunities such a merger would present.”

Veale – 101st in last year’sThe Lawyer UK200 –appears to have benefitted from its last merger, the 2009 link-up between Veale Wasbrough and London firm Vizards Tweedie. Last year it posted an increased turnover of £21.4m up 4.4 per cent after a year of consolidation.

Veale would bring its buoyant education and charities department, headed by Con Alexander and driven by a number of academy conversion deals, to the table. For Hewitsons, ranked at 140 in The Lawyer UK200 2011, private client is their main source of revenue – at £4.6m it was 35 per cent of its £13.2m total revenue last year.

However, the firm has been falling short each year on its 2007-08 figure of £18.6m.

One source said there has been little fallout from Veale’s 2009 merger and that it is well known the firm are “open to expansion plans” to improve its client book in some of its money-spinning sectors. They said the merger talks announcement was “no great surprise”.

Neither managing partner would comment further when contacted by The Lawyer.