Blake Lapthorn, Boyes Turner and Morgan Cole explore three-way merger

Blake Lapthorn, Boyes Turner and Morgan Cole are in talks over a three-way merger which would create a new top 40 UK firm with revenues closing in on £100m.

The merger would create a firm with offices across the Midlands, south of England and Wales, employing over 450 lawyers.

The news, confirmed by Morgan Cole in an exclusive statement to The Lawyer, follows the decision of the Cardiff-headquartered firm to offload its claims group to DAC Beachcroft and Berrymans Lace Mawer earlier this month (15 November 2013).

The firm said: ”Morgan Cole is considering a number of strategic options in this dynamic legal environment. The firm is holding discussions with Blake Lapthorn and Boyes Turner about what a merger between the three firms might achieve for clients and staff. There are a number of potential sector, service, geographical and operational benefits that could be delivered but there is much work to be done before any final decision can be reached and discussions are at an early stage.

“No further comment will be made at this time.”

Blake Lapthorn managing partner Walter Cha said: “In common with all firms, Blake Lapthorn has been looking to seek advantage in a competitive legal market. A merger is one of the many options we have been exploring and Morgan Cole and Boyes Turner – both excellent firms – have been among those we have talked to. Discussions have not progressed beyond first stages at this juncture and it is too early to say whether talks will continue with either of the firms or indeed others. We will not be commenting further until and unless there is anything to put before our partners and staff.”

The largest of the three firms, Blake Lapthorn has a history of expansion through merger. In 2006 legacy Blake Lapthorn Linnell carried out two mergers in quick succession, tying up first with Hampshire firm White & Bowker (27 February 2006) and then IP firm Tarlo Lyons (16 October 2006). The firm saw a minimal drop of 0.2 per cent in revenue for the 2012/13 financial year, to £45.6m from £45.7m, with average profit per equity partner (PEP) rising 6.5 per cent to £180,000 from £169,000 in 2011/12.

Meanwhile Morgan Cole had a tougher financial year last year. Turnover fell by 7.6 per cent, from £36.6m to £33.7m, and PEP by 37 per cent, from £258,000 to £162,000. Managing partner Elizabeth Carr attributed the fall to an issue with the firm’s premises portfolio (29 July 2013). Morgan Cole has also expanded through merger in the past, in 2009 bolting on Bristol insurance boutique CIP Solicitors (5 January 2009) and later that year taking on a team from Tayntons in Gloucester.

Reading-based Boyes Turner, the smallest of the three firms, brought in revenue of £14.7m in 2012/13. That was a 4.3 per cent rise from £14.1m the previous year. The firm’s average profit per equity partner (PEP) rose by 16.5 per cent, from £176,000 to £205,000.

The combined firm would have offices in Bristol, Cardiff, London, Oxford, Reading, Portsmouth, Southampton and Swansea.