This was a year dominated by merger activity in the legal market. For some firms, such as Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills, there was a desire for international expansion. For others, such as Slater & Gordon and DWF, there was opportunity to be grasped in being the dominant consolidator. And then there were the game-changing players, such as King & Wood Mallesons and SJ Berwin, which managed to pull off a huge international merger within six months of starting talks.
So, here is our look back at the year in mergers.
Howard Kennedy merged with Finers Stephens Innocent (31 January 2013)
DWF bought Cobbetts in a pre-pack administration (31 January 2013)
Salans, SNR Dentons and Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain (FMC) confirmed tripartite merger (28 November 2012)
Slater & Gordon acquired Manchester’s Fentons (21 August 2013)
Ashurst and Ashurst Australia voted on full financial merger (26 September 2013)
London litigation boutique Hage Aaronson set up referral relationship with New York disputes firm Gregory Joseph (16 September 2013)
Boutique MJ Hudson and Jersey firm Verras Law agreed to merge (10 September 2013)
Irwin Mitchell sold two Spanish offices to Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo (1 October 2013)
Washington DC firm Patton Boggs entered merger talks with Locke Lord (29 October 2013)
Neil Hudgell and Gordon Dadds acquired Harris Cartier in a pre-pack deal (14 October 2013)
Finnish firms Butzow and Juridia merged (1 October 2013)
SJ Berwin merged with King Wood & Mallesons – went live 1 November
Irwin Mitchell acquired McCool Patterson Hemsi Solicitors
Dentons and US firm McKenna Long & Aldridge called off merger (27 November 2013)
Irwin Mitchell acquired MPH Solicitors in Manchester (14 November 2013)
Slater & Gordon agreed £33m takeover of Pannone’s consumer business (28 November 2013)
Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe called off talks with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman (26 November 2013)
ENSafrica merged with Mauritian firm De Comarmond & Koenig (6 December 2013)
Slater Heelis merged with Cottrills (4 December 2013)
DAC Beachcroft merged with Colombian insurance firm De La Torre & Monroy Abogados Asociados (DAC Colombia) (2 December 2013)
Slater & Gordon and Pannone
The rumours about Australian firm Slater & Gordon’s next merger began in September and it seemed Manchester-based personal injury specialist Pannone would be its next tie-up. Three months later the £33m sale had been agreed. It marked the end of an acquisitive year for Slater & Gordon, which had gobbled up Goodmans Law and the personal injury practice of Taylor Vinters before confirming it was in tie-up talks with Pannone.
Shakespeares and others
2013 was a busy year for Shakespeares, which added two bolt-ons in September on top of is tie-up with Harvey Ingram in July 2012. By joining up with Leicester-based Marrons and Coventry-based Newsome Vaughan the firm added a 65-strong team to its Stratford-on-Avon HQ and a 32-strong Marrons team. That should take CEO Paul Wilson one step further to growing the firm into a £50m mid-tier heavyweight by 2014.
Wragge & Co and Lawrence Graham
Wragge & Co and Lawrence Graham (LG) go way back. The two seemed close to merging back in 2009, when they spent an all-day bonding session together. But despite Wragges’ enthusiasm to find a partner it seemed LG didn’t quite match up. Fast-forward to 2013 and things looked quite different, with a vote looming over the potential £170m firm. Onlookers questioned LG’s recent drop in profitability – profit per equity partner (PEP) slid by 14 per cent between 2012/13 and 2013/14 – but the firm could instantly bulk up Wragges’ London practice – an appealing offer.
Dentons and others
The tripartite merger between Salans, SNR Denton and Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain confirmed 28 March as the launch date for their triple merger. The tie-up created a law firm with no HQ but a presence in 79 locations and 52 countries across Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, the UK and the US – making it one of the largest firms in the world measured by the number of lawyers and professionals.
DWF and Cobbetts
Instead of a fresh start, the new year spelled the beginning of the end for Cobbetts, which went into administration on 6 February to be bought in a pre-pack deal by DWF. The firm was circling Cobbetts from the moment it filed notice to appoint administrators and the deal followed talks in 2011/12. DWF bolted on five firms in the space of a year, adding Crutes in January 2012, Buller Jeffries in April, Biggart Baillie in July, Fishburns in January 2013 and Cobbetts in February.
Penningtons and Manches
Manches and private client firm Penningtons confirmed merger talks back in September to create a £60m firm with around 250 lawyers. But questions were asked about the offer on the table. While Penningtons had been climbing in net profit and PEP, it emerged that Manches was labouring under a £715,000 VAT bill and a £6.4m overdraft. In the end Penningtons swooped in for an 11th hour rescue.
BGL and Minster
Yorkshire ABS Minster Law was acquired by BGL Group – the owners of price comparison site comparethemarket.com – in May, after Minster was granted permission to convert to an ABS. It broke through the £100m barrier in 2013 and has made a name for itself as the largest road traffic accident personal injury practice in the UK. The deal marked a significant step into a Legal Services Act marketplac