Shakespeares is in love as Harvey Ingram merger is made official

The merger of Midlands firm Shakespeares with regional neighbours Harvey Ingram is official, but will go live a month later than planned.

Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson

The merger of Midlands firm Shakespeares with regional neighbours Harvey Ingram is official, but will go live a month later than planned.

The combined £50m turnover firm will begin operating as one entity from 1 September after successful talks were completed.

Exclusive discussions between the ‘long-term friends’ over a potential merger were first revealed in The Lawyer in May this year (24 May 2012).

The combined firm will be known as Shakespeares, with 815 lawyers and staff across existing offices in Nottingham, Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Moreton-in-Marsh, Shipston-on-Stour, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Newport Pagnell.

However, in Leicester, where Harvey Ingram has a stronghold, the firm will be known as Harvey Ingram Shakespeares for one year until September 2013. The firm will trade as Wood Glaister in Solihull until April 2013 as a legacy of a previous tie-up.

The new-look management team sees Shakespeares’ Paul Wilson as chief executive of the merged firm, with Harvey Ingram senior partner Stephen Woolfe and his Shakespeares’ equivalent Mark English as joint-senior partners of the firm.

Simon Astill, formerly managing partner of Harvey Ingram, will be the merged firm’s director of risk and compliance.

The new-look Shakespeares brings together 360 staff from Harvey Ingram and more than 450 from Shakespeares. It would move to the brink of the top 50 UK firms in terms of turnover as Wilson continues to strive towards the £50m goal, which he had originally set for 2014.

Latest figures for Shakespeares show that the 2011-12 turnover stood at £29.6m, up from £28.4m a year earlier, with net profit of £8m. Average profit per equity partner increased by 4.4 per cent, from £182,000 to £190,000. Harvey Ingram enjoyed a headline growth figure of more than a third, with an increase from £14.2m in 2010-11 to £19.1m for 2011-12.

That rise came on the back of Harvey Ingram’s merger with Bornoes in January last year, creating a full-service firm with combined strength in Milton Keynes. The deal almost doubled the firm’s equity partner headcount.

In a joint statement, Wilson described the merger as a “new beginning”. He said: “This is a highly significant deal for both firms and it will position us for growth in a shifting legal marketplace.”

Woolfe added that the integration of the firm would benefit its base of business, public sector and high-net-worth private clients.

Shakespeares will become the second largest firm spanning the East and West Midlands and Home Counties after Wragge & Co, which has around 500 lawyers and 1,000 staff in the region.

Shakespeares’ five-year plan, set out in 2009, now looks set to be achieved two years early, bolstered through a series of acquisitions, of which Harvey Ingram is the largest to date.

It is the firm’s fifth merger since April 2010. Most recently, in December, the firm acquired Solihull-based Wood Glaister (10 November 2011), this came after the tie-up with two-partner firm Gorrara Haden in October.

In 2010, legacy firm Shakespeare Putsman merged with £7m Midlands rival Needham & James (8 June 2010), before forging ahead in August with the acquisition of Nottingham-based Berryman (18 August 2010).

In the meantime, Guildhall Chambers chief executive Hamish Munro came in as commercial director with the aim of building the firm’s brand (13 March 2012).