When the merger honeymoon is over

When it came, the McKenna/Cameron Markby merger made not so much a bang as a whimper. After months of frenzied speculation about the tri-partite merger which lost one of its participants, Denton Hall, on the way, the two firms are now officially preparing for life together.

The indications are that it will not be an easy relationship. While the difficulties involved in merging two firms is obvious and many issues have to be ironed out, one further problem which may beset this marriage is the similar market position of the two firms involved.

Both are second-tier firms which have had to contend, like many others, with the widening gap between those at the top of the law firms league and those in the middle. Both of these firms have strong egos and both have a number of weaknesses.

McKenna & Co has improved its position of late and is doing well in many areas under the stewardship of Robert Derry-Evans. However, Derry-Evans has never made a secret of the fact that the firm badly needed a banking practice.

From Cameron Markby's point of view, it badly needed an injection of life and, while still retaining its banking reputation, seems to have reached something of a stalemate in other areas.

By building a sizeable firm, the two are obviously hoping to take on some of the major City players and to attract work that they could not otherwise have hoped for. However, the firms will need to have a clever strategy in place if they are to change their market position and not just their size.

The first step, however, is to put an end to speculation about which firm is contributing most to the deal – a question which must inevitably arise when two such practices get together and which creates a residue of ill-will that will invariably get in the way of a true union. Otherwise, it will distract from the main business at hand – becoming a major City player.