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Cost cutting and near-shoring – Field Fisher Waterhouse ties up with Manchester’s Heatons

Following last year’s announcement from Field Fisher Waterhouse that it was looking to move a number of its London support functions to Manchester in a bid to cut costs, the top 40 LB100 has merged with local boutique Heatons.

Field Fisher’s partnership voted last week to merge with Heatons, which specialises in real estate, corporate and intellectual property. In 2006 the now single-site Manchester firm lost its Birmingham office to Clarke Willmott, leaving it with just 12 fee earners at the time including three partners, which has subsequently dropped to eight fee earners, led by managing partner Matthew Fleetwood.

Field Fisher has had an office in Manchester since 2004 and Fleetwood will become the managing partner of the joint Manchester operations working with Sarah Ellson, who leads the firm’s existing Manchester office.

The tie-up comes after Field Fisher last year announced it was looking at moving IT and secretarial roles to Manchester in a bid to cut costs, as part of an on-going strategy review conducted by managing partner, Michael Chissick (pictured).

By extending its operations outside of London, it’s only other UK site, the firm is banking on being able to provide more cost effective options to its clients.

Chissick commented: ‘Like many other UK City law firms, we have to continuously find ways of providing more value to our key clients. Feedback from our clients has encouraged us to look at having an enlarged regional operation, which has resulted in this merger.

‘We have long known and admired the Heatons team. This merger will give us the ability to offer more competitive rates across various practice areas and will improve our geographic reach for national and regional clients. We also have a number of long standing clients in the Manchester area that we are keen to continue supporting.’

Field Fisher last year unveiled disappointing financial results, posting a 2.5% drop in revenues to £95m, compared with £97.6m in 2012, while profit per equity partner decreased 7% on the figure published by Legal Business in 2012, down from £434,000 to £402,000.

The firm, which has engaged in a number of unsuccessful mergers, including both Lawrence Graham and Osborne Clarke in 2012, is the latest to look at setting up or extending a ‘near-shoring’ base, after Ashurst in 2013 announced its intention to establish a 150-strong unit in Glasgow.