Founded in 1987 in Ipswich, Merricks has 63 fee-earners, of whom 16 are partners. Chelmsford houses the property department, construction work is handled out of Birmingham and the London office services City-based clients.
There are five fee-earning departments in Ipswich – commercial litigation and personal injury being the largest, plus commercial and property, employment and construction.
Construction was one of the two areas that Merricks originally served, the other being insurance, and it is now a major earner in Birmingham and the South East. Clients include Axa Insurance, Cooperative Insurance Society and National Insurance Guarantee.
Recent work includes acting for Beyers Insurance in a case against Uttlesford District Council. Merricks was successful in quashing a decision by the Secretary of State to uphold a certificate issued by the local authority. It has particular significance for local authorities, insurers and environmental agencies with regard to tree preservation.
However, the firm has just lost construction litigation partner Sarah Shemmings. It is unknown where she is moving to.
Commercial litigation partners Jonathan Suckling and Dennis Wilkins have also left during the past 18 months, to go to Davies Lavery. Managing partner Andrew Hunn says that litigation has not been hit by departures and is trying to develop some innovative ways of practising.
“We're involved with developing a new alternative dispute resolution scheme for insurers particularly in relation to property and subsidence claims. A lot of money is spent on litigation in those areas,” he says. Partners Keith Gaston and Richard Whybrew are involved, in conjunction with mediation facilitator Intermediation.
Personal injury (PI) and property are the fastest growing departments. In the past two years the PI department has made three lateral hires at partner level: John Webster from Davies Arnold Cooper and Andy Neill and Mike Chan from Silverbeck Rymer. The firm's biggest case this year was the defence of a claim for brain damage, settled for £1.07m. This included a structured settlement that was significantly discounted for contributory negligence.
Elsewhere, the firm has acted for Galliford Construction in relation to the first schools PFI project, and the University of Birmingham for a number of adjudications.
Within the next five years Hunn expects new offices, most likely in the North West. “We've a track record of opening new locations organically rather than by acquisition. We're very strong on the one firm approach. Although it may be a slower way of getting there, we avoid the integration issues of acquiring people with different culture and ethos, let alone different legacy IT systems,” he says.