Wragges moves into London

Wragge & Co is to merge with City intellectual property practice Needham & Grant in a move that is likely to establish it as a leading player in the media industry.

The merger confirms Wragges’ strategy of growth by stealth, following its strategic merger with Birmingham construction firm Neil F Jones in October last year.

The tie-up, first revealed on The Lawyer’s website (www.thelawyer.co.uk) on Friday, is a marriage of resource and reputation.

Wragges has an established international and corporate practice, employing nearly 300 lawyers. Needhams, with just five partners, is one of the last specialist IP firms in the country. Its clients include Unilever, British Gas, British Telecom, Hyundai and Electrolux.

Needhams senior partner Gregor Grant will replace Gordon Harris as head of Wragges’ IP department. Harris will become team leader.

The new IP team will be operational from 6 April, with seven full-time partners and 28 assistants. It will work out of offices in Birmingham and London. A new London base is being sought, which will act as a stand-alone IP operation.

Grant says Wragges will provide the right platform to build his practice.

“We turned down numerous merger approaches because of our refusal to be absorbed by anonymous corporate cultures,” he says.

“Wragges’ culture was a strong attraction to us. We now expect to able to compete with the sizeable City firms.”

The merger comes just months after Birmingham-based Wragges rejected the need for a London office.

However, senior partner John Crabtree says the merger does not imply a change of strategy.

“The core of our business will remain in Birmingham and we will continue to build on that base,” he says.

“There are no plans to use the London IP operation as the start of a full service office.

“We have always been open to opportunities to augment the firm’s strategy of developing leading practices in specialist areas. This move is a logical step in that process.”

Wragges turnover has grown by 24 per cent in each of the last two years, with staff numbers up 47 per cent.