Legal world tipped for merger rush after McGrigors seals deal

Richard Masters, managing director of McGrigor's. Picture: Lorna Roach
Richard Masters, managing director of McGrigor's. Picture: Lorna Roach
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PARTNERS at McGrigors, Scotland’s largest law firm by turnover, have voted to merge with London-based practice Pinsent Masons in a move which could spark a wave of consolidation across the sector.

The confirmation, after weeks of talks, will see one of Scotland’s oldest legal names eventually disappear after more than 200 years.

The combined group – which will employ more than 2,500 staff in total including 1,500 lawyers – will use the name of its larger partner, which is far better known in the wider international market.

The move comes amid speculation of merger talks taking place across the legal sector as firms look to build critical mass and deal with the impact of a sharp drop in corporate work in recent years. McGrigors itself has been linked with a number of other firms but it is thought the close fit with Pinsent Masons and the timing of the deal won the vote of partners.

The combined firm would be the 12th largest in the UK with a turnover of some £282 million and more than 350 partners.

It is thought discussions are now under way on the management structure at the combined firm, which will have key strengths in areas including construction, energy and infrastructure, but it is not known if a final decision has been taken on who will take on the role of managing partner or chief executive of the business.

While efficiencies are not said to be the main motivation behind the deal, the combined group’s office network and support functions will inevitably come under review once the merger formally goes through on 1 May.

Although Pinsent Masons is based in London – where McGrigors has an office – it also has Scottish bases in Edinburgh and Glasgow where there could be the potential to combine premises.

Richard Masters, managing partner of McGrigors, yesterday described the deal as “great news for clients of both firms”. He added: “We believe it will provide a solid platform for growth, allowing us to become a clear market-leader in strategically key sectors.”

The merger will also provide the firm with a stronger international presence with four offices in Asia Pacific and two in the Gulf with additional bases in France and Germany expected to open during 2012.

Chris Mullen, senior partner of Pinsent Masons, said there had been a “resoundingly positive reception” to the merger proposal by partners at the firm.

Charles Barnett, professional services partner at accountants PKF in Scotland, said the merger may throw up opportunities for other Scottish firms to look to take on any clients or partners who may be unsettled by the deal.

“A client who may have seen themselves as a relatively small fish in the McGrigors’ pond might see themselves as minute in the Pinsent Masons’ one,” he pointed out.

The deal was the hot topic in yesterday’s legal press with the Lawyer publication saying: “It’s not a gamechanging merger in market terms, but McGrigors’ streak of quirkiness teamed with Pinsents’ worthy solidity is a pleasing prospect.”

McGrigors had a turnover of around £70m last year compared with Pinsent Masons’ £212.5m.