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‘The right move’: Four-partner private client team leaves Gowling WLG for Forsters

Gowling WLG has lost its legacy Lawrence Graham private client team, including four partners, to Mayfair firm Forsters.

Private client head Anthony Thompson is to depart, along with partners Catharine Bell, Nicholas Jacob and Daniel Ugur. The partners will be joined by 10 lawyers and five staff members.

Legacy firm Lawrence Graham was well known for its private client expertise, with the contentious trusts and probate team, led by Bell, ranked in tier two of The Legal 500. Andrew Witts, now chairman of the combined firm, is also recommended ‘for his experience of running large, complex multijurisdictional fraud and trust disputes in offshore jurisdictions.’ Clients of the team include New World Trust Company and Jersey Trust Company.

In a statement, chief executive David Fennell said: ‘The move by our London private client practice to Forsters is the right one for both the team and Gowling WLG. We had been in discussions with the team for some time, but have agreed that there is no longer a strong strategic fit with the firm’s ambitions.

‘We are focused on our priority practice areas and sectors across our international platform, building on the momentum from the Gowling WLG combination earlier this year. This move will enable Private Client to build its platform within a business which specialises in the private client market and we wish them well.’

Following the move, the Forsters private client team will compromise 48 lawyers and Forsters’ wider private wealth offering, including family and contentious trust and probate, will contribute more than one third of the firm’s revenue. The move will also broaden Forsters’ geographic reach in the Middle East and Asia.

Commenting on the acquisition, Patrick Harney, partner and head of the private client team at Forsters said the team acquisition is highly significant for the firm, increasing the scope and reach of its private wealth services and adding to the expertise for UK domiciled and internationally based clients.

Paul Roberts, managing partner at Forsters added: ‘The Gowling WLG team will be an excellent addition to our private wealth offering and to the wider firm. Our strategy of focusing on what we are good at – real estate and private client – has been successful and we have no intention of changing it. This acquisition will be another significant step in Forsters becoming recognised as a market leader in our chosen areas of excellence.’

The move will benefit the private client team from Gowlings personally, as it is joining a firm that has considerable financial muscle and has been one of the strongest performers in the LB100 in recent years. Fee income grew by 11% in 2015/16 to £46.2m, constituting its sixth consecutive year of double-digit growth since 2011, while PEP stands at £550,000 compared to £382,000 at Gowlings.