When bigger isn’t always better

It seems that Blake Lapthorn Linnell’s merger with Hampshire-based White & Bowker – the firm’s third merger in less than five years – proved not to everyone’s taste.

Though poised to create a 300-partner, £40m regional heavyweight, the move saw disaffected lawyers from the smaller White & Bowker splitting for rival outfits – including the firm’s entire employment practice.

Litigation partner Laurence Dunn, who headed the group and has spent 22 years at the firm, set sail for 18-partner Hampshire firm Warner Goodman & Streat last week, while another employment lawyer left for 19-partner outfit Coffin Mew & Clover.

Paris Smith & Randall, the 21-partner Southampton firm, also picked up two lawyers from the team, while a further three associates in other practice groups are set to leave for other firms in Hampshire and London.

White & Bowker’s two-partner criminal defence practice, meanwhile, split as a result of a decision by the firm rather than practice group.

Niall Brook, White & Bowker’s managing partner, said that the split was an agreement struck prior to the merger and that the firm would concentrate on financially related private client work, property and dispute resolution in the future.

The third merger in recent years, the White & Bowker tie-up follows hot on the heels of Blake Lapthorn’s bid in March 2003 to challenge the Oxford branches of rivals Morgan Cole and Manches by merging with local firm Linnells. That merger itself came only 18 months after the merger with 12-partner Portsmouth practice Sherwin Oliver.

Blake Lapthorn Linnell is yet to confirm this year’s financial results, but looking forward, partners will no doubt be hoping that this latest tie-up will succeed where the other two failed: in actually boosting PEP.