Veale Wasbrough Vizards and Hewitsons call off merger talks

Veale Wasbrough Vizards and Hewitsons have announced their decision to end merger talks six months after they were initiated.

Simon Heald

The two firms said last July they had begun to discuss the possibility of a merger after identifying several common strengths across particular practice areas, mostly notably education, charities and private client work (5 July 2012).

However, a joint statement issued today by Veale Wasbrough’s managing partner Simon Heald and Hewitsons’ managing partner John Dix said that after months of discussions they had finally decided to call off the merger.

Heald said: “We have enjoyed getting to know Hewitsons over recent months and confirm that our discussions have ceased.”

Dix added: “Our discussions with VWV were constructive and enjoyable throughout but the merger is not going ahead.”

The merger would have created a firm with a combined turnover of around £34m, which would have placed it just outside the top 70 UK firms within The Lawyer UK 200.

The 2011/12 financial year saw Veale Wasborough, which has offices in Bristol and London, witness a slight dip in turnover, with revenues slipping slightly from £21.4m to £21.3m. Meanwhile Cambridge-headquartered Hewitsons’ turnover dropped 3 per cent down from £13.2m to £12.8m –a long way off its 2007/08 peak of £18.6m. These financial results saw Veale Wasbrough ranked 102 and Hewitsons ranked 153 in The Lawyer UK 200 2012.

Veale Wasbrough has made a number of significant hires in recent months, having most recently poached education employment specialist Alice Reeve from Rickerbys to boost its education practice group (14 January 2013).

The firm also hired Bristol City Council legal head Stephen McNamara as a consultant in the firm’s public sector department in December 2012 (5 December 2012) and rehired former partner Sue Malthouse, who returned to the firm in November after 18 months as group director of legal and company secretary at Clarks Shoes in November (29 November 2012).

Neither managing partner was reachable for further comment and it is unclear at this stage if they are in merger talks with any other firms.