MORE than a century of legal history will come to an end in the new year with the disappearance of the name of one of the North East's longest-established law firms.
Months of negotiations finally came to a successful conclusion last week when Newcastle-based firm Crutes sealed the terms of its merger with national outfit DWF.
The deal will see the Crutes name, which dates back 104 years, disappear from January 1, a matter of some regret for the firm’s managing partner Helen Ager.
But she said that the sadness at the loss of the firm’s identity and independence was heavily outweighed by the positives resulting from the deal.
And Ager predicted the tie-up would be good news for the North East too, as the enlarged firm will have the chance to pursue an ambitious growth strategy.
“I think that we have recognised for several years that the legal market is going to continue on the trend towards consolidation and we have also recognise that there is a limit to what a firm of our size can achieve alone,” she said.
“While recognising that we may need to become part of a larger entity, we didn’t want to make the wrong move. We have been considering some type of merger for a long time. We just wanted to make sure it was the right one.”
Ager said DWF, one of the country’s fastest-growing firms, represented the “perfect fit” in terms of its services and its culture.
“With our strength in insurance, alongside our established services to businesses we believe DWF is an ideal match to enable us to add real weight to our offering here in the North East,” she said.
“By combining sector knowledge, legal expertise and resources with DWF, it will help us to strengthen our client offering and our reputation for providing outstanding client service.”
She added: “I hope it is going to create another very strong alternative for people in this region.
“They are entrepreneurial and ambitious. They want to be among the top 30 law firms in the country and that is very exciting.”
Ager said that it was too early to say whether the firm would retain all three of the existing Crutes offices in Newcastle, Stockton and Carlisle.
The firm employs 95 staff, including 16 partners, with revenues of over £5m per year. The new combined business will have a total of 102 staff in the North East and 1,500 nationally.
Ager’s enthusiasm about the tie-up was shared by Joe Mosby, editor of the UK edition of the legal directory Chambers, who described the merger as a “strong and natural fit”.
“The tie-up between DWF and Crutes is the latest in a long line of law firm mergers as firms across the country seek to strengthen their position in an increasingly competitive market,” he said.
“The move makes sense. Both firms share areas of expertise, including insurance and private client work, and the combined firm will boast strong resources in the North East, North West, Yorkshire, Midlands and London.”
DWF is said to be still in talks with Cobbetts, with offices in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.