Clyde & Co and BLM to merge with partner vote imminent

Clyde & Co and BLM are at an advanced stage of merger discussions, with both sets of partnerships due to vote on a tie-up before the end of March.

Legal Business understands that there is significant confidence that the deal will be green-lit.

According to the latest available LB100 data, the merger would create a £736m turnover firm with a combined headcount of over 2,500 lawyers and in excess of 450 equity partners.

It is understood that the merged entity will be known simply as ‘Clyde & Co’, a reflection of the respective sizes of the two firms. Clydes constitutes £640m of the combined revenue and 1,966 lawyers on its own. There are still details to be ironed out, particularly in relation to a combined leadership structure and what kind of roles BLM’s current managing and senior partners, Vivienne Williams and Matthew Harrington respectively, will be offered.

The combination has been in the offing since late 2019, when Clydes approached BLM and mooted a tie-up. It is a naturally attractive proposition for BLM, as one of many firms feeling the consolidation squeeze in the lower mid-market. In 2017, the firm slashed a considerable number of support staff as part of a wider restructuring effort.

Merger talks stalled as a result of the pandemic, before RollOnFriday broke the news in October 2021 that the two firms were in preliminary discussions.

There are obvious synergies between the two firms, with crossovers in areas such as insurance and professional indemnity. However, BLM will also bring Clydes access to established niche practices in casualty insurance and healthcare. Reflecting that strength, BLM has historically featured on NHS legal advice panels.

Neither firm is a stranger to mergers: In 2011 Clyde & Co combined with Barlow Lyde & Gilbert in a major deal, while BLM was born out of a merger between Berrymans and Lace Mawer. Prior to the Barlow tie-up, Clyde had scant regional UK coverage, but a BLM merger would extend its reach to new outposts in Birmingham, Liverpool and Southampton.

A Clydes spokesperson said: ‘We can confirm that Clyde & Co is in discussions about a merger with BLM. As the world’s leading insurance law firm, we are always looking to grow for the benefit of our clients. We have long sought to significantly increase the scale of our casualty insurance practice in the UK so that we can provide the full scope of services, technology, data analytics and innovation that clients in this dynamic part of the insurance market require.

‘We consider a merger such as this the best way to realise these ambitions. BLM is a firm we have long admired and we believe a merger can be formed on the basis of our complementary client rosters and our shared focus on quality.

‘As this merger is not yet finalised it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’

A BLM spokesperson added: ‘Following detailed discussions and a period of due diligence, BLM and Clyde & Co partners will vote on a proposed merger of the two organisations. The Executive Board set strategic objectives around how best to grow the firm and secure our status as a market leading, innovative and full-service law firm across the UK, Ireland and internationally. We believe that a potential combination with Clyde & Co would provide us with the growth needed to develop our business.

‘The result of the vote will depend on whether, in the respective partner group’s view, combining the firms is in the best interests of our colleagues, clients and the wider businesses.

‘The strategic and commercial compatibility of the two firms is undeniable. We are both dominant in risk and insurance and our respective businesses complement each other. Whilst Clyde & Co is a global business, we both have an extremely strong presence in the insurance sector in the UK and Ireland. Clyde & Co also boasts a strong offering in business and advisory services.

‘More details will be provided as soon as the vote has taken place.’

This story first appeared on Legal Business