A merger between Nabarro Nathanson and Turner Kenneth Brown creating a new top ten firm is now a near certainty after heads of agreement between the partnerships were signed last Friday.
Senior partners in both camps say prospects for completing the deal are very positive and a flexible deadline set for around 1 May, when their new financial years start, should be met.
It will bring to a close speculation about TKB's financial problems at the end of the recession which led to a continual fall-out of lawyers to other firms.
Merger talks between TKB and other firms including Macfarlanes and Alsop Wilkinson failed last year.
Any remaining difficulties will be negotiated in the coming weeks before Nabarro Nathanson's voting equity partners finally rubber stamp the merger.
David Bramson, Nabarro Nathanson senior partner, says: “We are very pleased that it's got this far. We now have to dot the 'i's and cross the 't's. It's looking very positive at the moment.”
TKB managing partner Jim Edmundson says: “All the partners here are extremely positive about it.”
Nabarros intends to take on all of TKB's partnership and staff rather than cherry pick through the most profitable departments.
“That gave us a lot of comfort, although it's still possible that some partners may go elsewhere,” says Edmundson.
The new firm will be known as Nabarro Nathanson, chiefly because Nabarros is the larger partner in the marriage.
Nabarros will not say how many TKB partners will take equity in the new firm because of its policy not to discuss partnership terms.
However, it confirms that department heads from both practices are in close communication to work out where individuals will be best placed.
Both firms bring complementary strengths to the merger. Nabarros is keen on TKB's strengths in information technology law, which are concentrated in the Reading office servicing the Thames Valley's IT industry.
Nabarros' strong, developer-driven property work dovetails with TKB's engineer-based property practice, which has grown in the last two years.