No merger plans for Newcastle law firm Muckle LLP

LAW firm Muckle has declared its intention to remain independent after posting a big increase in annual turnover and profits.

Steve McNicol & Hugh Welch of Muckle LLP
Steve McNicol & Hugh Welch of Muckle LLP

LAW firm Muckle has declared its intention to remain independent after posting a big increase in annual turnover and profits.

The Newcastle-based firm said it had made “a positive decision not to merge” despite ongoing speculation about further consolidation in the marketplace.

Last month larger city rival Dickinson Dees surprised the market with its announcement that it was in advanced talks over a merger with Bristol-based Bond Pearce, a move that would create a national firm, turning over £95m.

Last night Muckle managing partner Stephen McNicol insisted his firm was not about to follow suit, however.

“We made a positive decision not to merge or takeover,” he said.

“There is a lot of merger chat currently in the legal market. We quite often get asked about that but we are very clear our strategy is to remain independent and in the North East, servicing predominately business and entrepreneurs.”

The firm, which employs just over 150 people, has just released its full-year figures for the 12 months to the end of March showing an 18% increase in turnover to £10.9m, while operating profits were 39% higher at £4.2m. McNicol said: “We have taken on 10 new partners in the last two years to generate income and win clients

“Out costs have gone up by 8%, which has almost all been investment in people. If you are going to grow your fee income, you need to win work and look after your clients. We have invested in a number of new partners in work areas that support very strongly what we do or bring in new skills.”

Among the partners joining the firm was Rob Langley, formerly of Watson Burton, who is widely regarded as one of the best construction lawyers in the UK. His reputation has boosted Muckle’s construction division.

McNicol said: “Rob’s practice is national and international. It is in construction disputes where we have seen more growth. He has a national reputation for being a construction and engineering expert.”

The solid full-year results have carried into 2012/13 with turnover for the first half up by 9%.

Senior partner Hugh Welch said: “We are targeting 10% growth for the year so to do 9% in the first half is very good.

“The second half tends to be stronger but we think it would be tempting fate to say that. It is tough. All businesses are feeling the challenge of the present economic climate.

“The market is challenging but it is challenging for everyone. You’ve got to work that bit harder; there is work out there.”


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