Barlow Lyde & Gilbert’s (BLG) corporate practice has had a major fillip by landing a lead role on a headline £1bn merger.

The litigation-heavy firm is advising longstanding client First Milk on its proposed tie-up with Milk Link, which will form one of the UK’s biggest dairy cooperatives.

The deal, which is at the due diligence stage, is led for First Milk by BLG corporate partner Peter Allen, who also advised it on last year’s £61.9m acquisition of Dairy Crest’s cheese business.

The deal’s timing is ideal for BLG, which has just hired corporate partner Richard Pike from Taylor Wessing in a bid to fill the gap left by partner Jonathan Deverill, who went to Canadian firm Stikeman Elliott this summer.

Allen said: “This is a deal that any firm would like to do, but we’re doing it for a longstanding client. I think it shows the underlying strength of our corporate practice.”

At Burges Salmon agriculture partner William Neville is leading for Milk Link, a client since the disbanding of Milk Marque in 2000 on competition grounds. Milk Link and First Milk are both successors to that separation.

There are also possible competition issues if this merger goes forward, as the combined group – to be owned collectively by more than 4,250 farmers – will have a 20 per cent share of the UK’s cheese market.

The merger comes at a time of renewed scrutiny of dairies by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which named six other big milk and cheese producers last month in a price-fixing claim (, 20 September).

Both BLG and Burges Salmon are fielding competition teams in the event of a referral to the Competition Commission, with respective partners David Strang and Laura Claydon leading.