While talks of the giant south-east combination between Blake Lapthorn, Boyes Turner and Morgan Cole to create a £100m firm fell through late last year with Boyes Turner withdrawing, Blake Lapthorn and Morgan Cole have announced the two will merge on 1 July to form Blake Morgan, a 120-partner firm with a joint revenue of £72m.
The combined firm will have a strong showing in the south of England and Wales across seven locations: London, Cardiff, Reading, Southampton, Oxford, Portsmouth and Swansea.
Walter Cha (pictured), managing partner at Blake Lapthorn who will become managing partner of the combined firm, said: ‘We’re excited by what the new firm can achieve; with a broader and deeper capability across the sectors that the two firms are already known for such as regulatory, public sector, development and construction and banking and finance. Our combination with Morgan Cole positions us as a major player in Wales and southern England and will provide us with a strong platform to invest in London and the Thames Valley.’
Elizabeth Carr, managing partner at Morgan Cole, added: ‘We have been looking for the right partner to enable us to grow our business…We have an ambitious strategy to deliver the right capability in the most efficient and effective way. We are enthused by what the new firm can deliver in terms of investment in legal talent, training and technology to benefit all our clients.’
Both firms have found the post-Lehman years particularly challenging. Top 80 firm Morgan Cole’s latest LLP filings showed its highest paid equity member took home almost 42% less at the end of the last financial year – £162,000 compared to £278,000 in 2011/12. The lowest paid equity partner also took home 35% less; £135,000 compared to £206,000 the year before.
The firm’s revenue was down 8% from £36.6m to £33.7m, as profit dropped over 32% from £10.1m to £6.9m, which the Cardiff-based firm attributed to a one-off property charge which has now been resolved.
Blake Lapthorn, on the other hand, posted flat revenues of £45.6m in 2013, but overall its turnover was down 10% on the figure it posted in 2008.
The merger discussions involved a number of consultants and Alan Hodgart of Hodgart Associates said: ‘The consolidation in the legal market is continuing and firms need to decide which way to go: to scale up or become more specialised. The merger of Blake Lapthorn and Morgan Cole brings together two businesses that are very complementary in strategic terms and presents a new competitive force in the UK market.’