Ward Hadaway moots merger

Ward Hadaway has unveiled ambitious expansion plans – including the possibility of merging with a fellow Newcastle firm.

The 34-partner practice plans to increase staffing levels by more than 60 per cent and increase fee income from u8.5m to u17m by April next year.

But it has ruled out expanding on a national level, making merger the most likely means to carry out much of the intended growth.

Managing partner Jamie Martin says: “Our plans are very much around being an independent regional practice.

“We have no plans to move out of the region, nor do we have any plans to open any branch offices.

“Merger is never off the agenda. Our plans are very ambitious and could be done through organic growth, but are more likely to be achieved through mergers and bolt-ons.”

The firm plans to bolster three particular practice areas – commercial litigation, corporate finance and company and commercial – by recruiting at least three more partners.

Staffing levels will increase from 210 to around 350, mostly through recruitment of more fee earners.

Says Martin: “We are looking at lateral hires and I am not too concerned where they come from as long as they are quite willing to be a part of Ward Hadaway's future.”

Martin refuses to be drawn on which local firms would be of interest as merger partners, but adds it is important to find one with the same culture.

Prominent local firms include Jacksons and Crutes. Merger talks between those two firms collapsed earlier this year. Sources blamed the failure on “operational concerns and potential client conflicts” (The Lawyer, 8 March).

Martin dismisses suggestions of a rise in fees to pay for the proposed increase in fee income. It will instead be done through a hike in its workload and number of clients, he claims.