Withers and Speechly vote against merger

Withers and Speechly Bircham have called off merger talks following votes at both firms.

In a joint statement, the firms said: “Following detailed discussions between the management and partnerships of Withers and Speechly Bircham, both sides have now concluded that a merger would not be in the best interests of both firms and have agreed not to pursue this further. The talks have enhanced the respect that both firms have for each other.”

As revealed by The Lawyer last week Speechly Bircham partners voted on the merger on Tuesday with Withers voting yesterday (17 May 2013).

News of merger talks first broke in March (25 March 2013). If successful the combined £170m firm had agreed to be branded Withers Speechly Bircham (WSB) in the UK, and Withers Bergman in the US.

Sources suggested therehad beendisquiet about the proposed merger at both firms.

At Withers opposition to the merger was led by the family, litigation and employment practices, sources said. While Speechly partners are understood to have been concerned about being swallowed up by its proposed partner.

A source close to the firm said: “Speechly is saying hang on, what are we taking on here? There are people wondering if they’ll have the opportunity to jump before it all goes through.”

Withers reported a turnover of £80.5m in 2011/12 while Speechly posted turnover of £57.6m, with the net profit at both firms relatively even at £20.4m and £20m respectively. The merger would’ve given Speechly a presence in a number of new jurisdictions, through Withers’ overseas network of nine offices spread across Europe, the US, Asia and the British Virgin Islands.

The vote follows a number of exits from both firms in recent months. Withers has seen the departure of nine partners since January 2012, including three practice group heads since last November: head of european corporate Adam Duthie, head of media and public law Jennifer McDermott and head of art and cultural assets Pierre Valentin.

Speechly has seen 23 partners depart in the same time period, including six practice heads. These include head of planning and environment Clare Prior, head of international private client Charles Gothard and immigration head Tracy Evlogidis.