Blake Lapthorn partners vote to save City office

Partners at Blake Lapthorn Linnell’s London office have given a last-minute vote of confidence to the firm’s merger with IP/IT firm Tarlo Lyons, withdrawing from merger talks with Matthew Arnold & Baldwin.

The talks with Matthew Arnold would have seen Blake Lapthorn’s entire London insolvency and property practices, the basis of its office in the capital, split off to join Watford-based Matthew Arnold, delivering a deathblow to Blake Lapthorn’s City operation.

The move would have scuppered the firm’s merger with 20-partner Tarlo Lyons (The Lawyer, 24 July).

The Tarlo Lyons marriage, implemented by Blake Lapthorn managing partner Walter Cha, is a bid to boost the firm’s London office, which is understood to be suffering from a crisis in morale. The postponement of talks with Matthew Arnold suggests that partners are sticking with the firm for now.

The Tarlo Lyons tie-up is Blake Lapthorn’s fourth merger in as many years, and follows its merger with White & Bowker in February this year.

That tie-up resulted in several disaffected lawyers from the smaller White & Bowker splitting for rival outfits – including the firm’s entire employment practice.

The White & Bowker tie-up followed Blake Lapthorn’s merger with Oxford firm Linnells in March 2003, which was a bid to challenge the Oxford branches of Morgan Cole and Manches. That merger came only 18 months after the merger with 12-partner Portsmouth practice Sherwin Oliver.

Blake Lapthorn’s corporate tax capability was left in shreds following the departure of group head Niall Murphy to Shoosmiths after a decade at the firm (www.the, 9 October).

The defection left Blake Lapthorn with just one lawyer in its corporate tax team, senior solicitor Elizabeth Anderson.

Blake Lapthorn declined to comment.