Nottingham’s Nelsons eyes East Midlands domination with Derby take-over

Nottingham-headquartered Nelsons Solicitors has swallowed up Derby’s Bakewells, as the firm looks to become a dominant force in the East Midlands legal market.

Tim Hastings
Tim Hastings, Nelsons Solicitors

Nelsons, which has more than 200 lawyers and staff working across offices in Leicester, Nottingham and Derby, is set to merge with Bakewells, which has a 35-strong team, creating a near £15m firm.

Following the merger, Bakewells’ staff will move into Nelsons’ offices in Derby. Bakewells’ three partners all join Nelsons as partners but none will be offered a position on the management team.

According to Nelsons chief executive Tim Hastings, the two firms have been discussing a merger for several months and knew each other before beginning talks.

The merger is part of Nelsons’ strategy to become a powerhouse in the East Midlands, bringing its Leicester and Derby offices up to the same strength as its Nottingham headquarters. Hastings added that the merger with Bakewells was a good fit for Nelsons since Bakewells’ strongest departments – property, private client and commercial litigation – complemented its existing practices there.

The Bakewells acquisition is Nelson’s second in the past 12 months. The firm snapped up volume personal injury solicitors Advance Legal in July 2011, adding to its existing, more high-end practice focusing on clinical negligence, among other things. The acquisition of Advance legal added around £1m to Nelsons’ top line, while the merger with Bakewells added another £1.5m. Hastings said that Nelsons was now on the lookout for a merger partner in Leicester, to keep pace with its expanded Derby office.

Nelsons switched from an LLP to a limited company in 2010. Turnover at the firm for the 2011-12 financial year was £11.8m, which was up slightly on the previous year. In 2003 the firm’s turnover had been as high as £17.6m, but that was before the business divested its criminal law practice, which was taken up by Cartwright King (24 July 2006).