A joint attempt by Liverpool's Weightmans and Teeside's Jacksons to create a national insurance firm has fallen apart in sudden acrimony.
But the 100-plus partners of Beachcroft Stanleys, Wansboroughs Willey Hargrave and Vaudreys have all voted, in principle, to merge.
Weightmans and Jacksons were in talks with London firm Kennedys. When Kennedys was found to have irreconcilable cultural differences, the two agreed to look at merging alone.
They were about to receive a report from Coopers & Lybrand on the financial implications of integration and were going to hire a PR company.
But Professor Martin Reid, chief executive of Weightmans, said that on Thursday he had informed Jacksons that the "logistical and economic" cost of integration - particularly upgrading its software and establishing IT links - were too high to bear for a merger with Jacksons alone. "We considered that they remained part of our plans for a national firm", he said.
Jacksons recently moved to expensive new Teeside offices. It was not willing to wait until a new, southern-based firm was brought on board, and appears to have pulled out altogether.
Jacksons managing partner Bill Goyder issued a statement last Friday saying that negotiations had been suspended: "Our discussions with Weightmans have been very cordial, however there are differences in emphasis in the speed and direction of development."
He said his firm wished to build a national practice and would be talking to "individuals, teams and firms".
Meanwhile, the tripartite merger of three other insurance-based practices - Beachcrofts, Wansboroughs and Vaudreys - is forging ahead. The 100 partners of all three forms met in London on 17 May after voting in principle to merge. It is understood the firms have only to draw up the final detailed agreement.