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‘Developing market share’: Weightmans opens shop in Newcastle through Watson Burton acquisition

National player Weightmans has expanded into North East England after acquiring Newcastle-based firm Watson Burton, adding nine partners to the firm’s bench.

In total, 64 employees will join Weightmans’ ranks, with Watson Burton having offices in Newcastle, Leeds and London. Though the cost of the acquisition was not disclosed, Watson Burton turned over £6.9m in the last financial year.

‘I see mergers as a key part of development,’ Weightmans managing partner John Schorah told Legal Business. ‘It’s not a strategy in of itself, but it’s integral to developing market share.’

The move will also see four lawyers from Watson Burton’s Leeds office decamp to Weightmans’ existing office in the city. Meanwhile, Watson Burton managing partner Chris Graham will now act as the office head in Newcastle, with a Weightmans partner moving to the outpost to assist in the integration process.

The acquisition sees Weightmans succeed where it failed in 2017, after talks to merge with LB100 firm Ward Hadaway were called off after months of negotiations. The successful merger with Watson Burton adds to Weightmans’ existing presence in Birmingham, London, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow.

Weightmans turned over £97.1m in the last financial year, a marginal 3% increase on the year prior, while gross profit grew by 5%. According to Schorah, the acquisition will propel the firm’s client activity moving forward.

‘Watson Burton operates in all the sectors where we are trying to develop,’ he added. ‘We want a wider segment share in sectors like professional indemnity insurance and in the owner-managed business practice. We’re getting talented people for our bench.’