Two mergers are sign of the times

TWO firms have announced separate merger moves as a new survey revealed that amalgamation is back on law firms' agenda.

Personal injury practice Irwin Mitchell announced a link-up with Leeds firm Teeman Levine to form a venture with more than 600 staff and 55 partners.

London firm Finers announced that it was merging with Shindler & Co to form a 34-partner outfit under the Finers name.

The news came as a survey of 50 professional partnerships showed that more than one-third of these were actively considering mergers or acquisitions.

Accountants Smith & Williamson said their poll provided “dramatic evidence” that such strategies were among the most pressing issues for solicitors' firms.

Simon Mabey, chair of Smith & Williamson's professional partnerships group, said: “In a few years the professional landscape is likely to look quite different.”

The Irwin Mitchell merger, effective from Wednesday this week, comes less than a year after it combined with Kershaw Tudor. Managing partner Howard Culley, in talks with Teeman's senior partner Peter Levine for two months, said the move was a natural step after the opening of a Leeds office.

“Our strategy for growth is organic, but smaller mergers with significant synergy are important if they can be achieved without threat to our harmonious culture.”

David Swede, Finers' managing partner, said the enlarged practice would be strengthened by Shindlers' property, commercial and litigation expertise, plus its specialist interests such as dry shipping and east European business. Hilary Stone, Shindlers' senior partner, said the venture offered an “excellent opportunity” once it was launched on 4 December.