NATIONAL firm Wansbroughs Willey Hargrave is to fulfil its long held ambition of gaining a Manchester stronghold by taking over 14-partner insurance specialists Vaudreys.
The move, which is the culmination of 18 months of negotiations, has paved the way for a further merger with London firm Beachcroft Stanleys to create a top 10 firm.
Wansbroughs will absorb Vaudreys on 1 September when it will boost its number of partners to 76 and become the 15th largest firm in the UK by size.
Its combined turnover of £35.5m - Vaudreys' turnover for the last financial year was £7.3m and Wansbroughs' £28.2m - would put it in 34th position in The Lawyer's Top 50 firms by gross revenue.
Iain Moore, Vaudreys' managing partner, will stay as head of the Manchester practice.
The merger has been prompted by a wave of consolidation in the insurance industry and the subsequent reduction in the size of insurance companies' panels.
Over 60 per cent of Vaudreys' work constitutes defendant personal injury litigation. Wansbroughs specialises in insurance, health and commercial law.
Lord Hunt, Beachcrofts' senior partner, said that his firm had been waiting for the Wansbroughs/Vaudreys merger to complete before moving forward their own merger talks.
"We can now get down to some serious discussions," he said. "We are anxious to complete as soon as possible."
Wansbroughs' senior partner Robert Heslett said: "The merger is entirely complementary to the strategic aspirations of both ourselves and Beachcroft Stanleys; its timing is as planned in the context of our continuing and detailed discussions."