Cobbetts: the morning after

Sad but not surprised. That seems to be the sentiment surrounding the demise of Cobbetts, formerly one the UK’s most prestigious regional firms, which filed notice to appoint administrators on Monday. Bevan Brittan partner Iain Miller is advising the SRA on the matter.

In January 2012, when The Lawyer explored the mooted tie-up between DWF and Cobbetts, market sources hailed the Manchester firm’s fine pedigree and client list but were wary of its flaws: Cobbetts had expanded quickly in the early 2000s but had failed to reinvent itself when transactional and property markets declined following the economic crash. Debt was mounting, but still the firm couldn’t seem to find a way to adapt. Some said it was arrogance, born from having spent so long at the top of the Manchester market.

For a more detailed look at Cobbetts’ recent history, click here. It will give you pause for thought.

Now, the focus is on Cobbetts’ staff, which number almost 500. There are plenty of solid practices for acquirer firms to pick up – alarmingly, the firm had been recruiting associates as recently as December 2012 – and the talk is of DWF taking on all of Cobbetts in a pre-pack deal. The College of Law, meanwhile, has said that it has been “encouraged” by how Cobbetts is dealing with its trainees.

There will be plenty of time to pick over what went wrong for Cobbetts exactly, but what is already clear is that this is another clear sign that you can’t stay still in this market without falling behind.


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