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July 17, 2014updated 11 Jan 2016 2:36pm

Charles Russell-Speechly Bircham merger approved

By Spear's

The rumble of mergers in the private-client legal world turned into a roar yesterday as Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham agreed to unite, creating a firm with 170 partners and combined revenues of £135 million. By revenue, this now makes Charles Russell Speechlys bigger than Withers.

James Carter, managing partner at Speechly Bircham and now at the new firm, told Spear’s the merger, which was overwhelmingly approved by both sides, made sense because of harmonious outlooks: ‘Both firms have this belief in an integrated and balanced approach for our clients so we’re able to provide the services they need.’ He said that divisional strengths would complement each other.

The private-client practice of the new firm would have 40 partners, 110 lawyers and revenues of £35 million.

The merger would allow the firm ‘to spread our wings slightly wider across the world’: it currently has four European offices and two in the Gulf, but will presumably need to look at America and Asia as well. ‘That’s an expensive game and to try and do that from the size we each are at the moment is very difficult.’

Christopher Page, senior partner at Charles Russell and now at the new firm, wanted to reassure clients that the merger didn’t mean any significant changes for them: ‘They will be dealing with the same partners, the same established relationships with their advisers. Those advisers will have the same outlook.’

This was ‘a quantum leap’ in their size, Page said. He was bearish on the prospect of further similar mergers in the sector: ‘There aren’t many firms that can achieve what we’ve achieved.’

Speechly Bircham mooted a merger with Withers in 2013 but, according to a press release at the time, ‘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 failure of a second merger in a year would have been extremely damaging.

Other recent mergers in the private-client legal sector include Penningtons and Manches and Wragge & Co and Lawrence Graham.

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Private-client people are giving their corporate cousins lots of business lately: there have been several mergers of wealth management firms too.

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