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‘You have to go with one brand’: CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang ditch legacy names as merger goes live

CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang have merged together under the CMS brand, ditching the names of their legacy firms.

The long awaited three way merger went live yesterday (1 May), with Nabarro moving into Cannon Place across the weekend and Olswang set to join the building in two weeks’ time.

CMS managing partner Stephen Millar told Legal Business: ‘It’s been very much agreed from the outset that we go to market as a CMS brand. CMS is the bigger brand, it’s an international brand. Nabarro and Olswang are great brands, particularly in their sector areas, but when you bring three firms together you very much have to go with one, particularly when there’s different parts of CMS.’

The combination makes the firm a top-five global practice by lawyer headcount, with 4,500 fee-earners, if you include the CMS international network, and nearly 2,000 lawyers in the core UK-based partnership. The combined firm will have revenues of over £430m in the UK and more than €1.2bn of business across the CMS grouping of 13 member firms.

However, not all are on board with the combination, with the latest to exit being Camerons leveraged finance partner Peter Crichton. Crichton, whose key clients include Alcentra, Bluebay, Cordet Capital, Crescent Capital will join US firm McDermott Will & Emery. Additionally, 39 Essex Chambers announced today that energy partner Lindy Patterson QC will leave CMS to join as a door tenant.

CMS will be unrolling its new brand campaign across the City to introduce new CMS’s new UK offering, a project which has come at a considerable cost for the firm. Millar said: ‘This is a significant investment because our brand positioning is very important. We have probably been seen as a bit of an understated brand in the City and we’ve decided to do something big – we decided to do the biggest UK merger ever. As a result some significant investment in the brand is appropriate.’

The three firms have had around 140 referrals and has done between 40 to 50 pitches since announcing merger plans last September. ‘That, for me, the real litmus test of what clients think,’ Miller said.

The firm is also investing in technology, something the firm has labelled ‘CMS 2.0’, to improve operational efficiency and client service. The firm has introduced new collaboration zones for each practice group in its Cannon Place headquarters and is investing in technology such as AI.

As for future growth plans, the firm’s senior partner Penelope Warne (pictured) said it has not turned away from the idea of a US merger: ‘Right now that’s not our focus, in due course it will become our focus. We’re equally interested in Asia as we are looking west to America. Over the last 12 months we have opened in Hong Kong, and through the merger we have acquired two offices in Singapore which we are now integrating. We already have offices in Shanghai and Beijing. We are working in Asia very effectively but it’s an important area.’

Read more: ‘Sale of the century – Has Camerons picked up a bargain with Olswang and Nabarro?’