Rakisons refused to link with Stephens Innocent

Rakisons dropped plans to merge with Stephens Innocent after discovering the media firms profits had fallen, it claims.

Rakisons corporate partner Jonathan Polin says his firm found out at a late stage in the talks that Stephens Innocent was not a good commercial proposition, and told senior partner Mark Stephens it would only take him and one or two of his associates.

“Information was provided to us by Stephens Innocent a lot later than we had expected,” says Polin.

“It was clear that the heart had gone out of Stephens Innocent and we would be taking on 800 not very commercial and not very sensible files.

“We had been told that the firm was being kept busy with profitable work, but it emerged that a full merger would not be commercially viable.”

Mark Stephens was unavailable to comment on Polin's claims.

Polin says Rakisons' senior partner Tony Wollenburg told Stephens he would only cherry pick from the firm days before Stephens left to chair the Law Society conference in Paris two weeks ago. The day Stephens returned it was revealed that he had chosen to merge with Finers (The Lawyer, 1 November).

“We had said to Mark: 'It is up to you what you want to do, come with us or go with your friends.' Then it became clear he was going with Finers, but he didn't have the decency to actually phone us – we guessed the offer we had made was unacceptable.”

Partners at Rakisons voted against reporting Finers to the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors for merging with Stephens Innocent, which it had advised in talks with Rakisons. Polin says the firm decided they “could not throw bad money after spilt milk” but remains convinced that Finers breached professional conduct regulations.

“Finers have acted appallingly,” he says.

Finers' managing partner Richard Gerstein says his firm acted “entirely properly” concerning the merger, which it only considered after Rakisons had decided not to go ahead with the union.