Merger fever grips mid-market

The trend of mid-market consolidation continues apace, with two major non-City players, Mills & Reeve and Thomas Eggar, announcing separate deals to strengthen their national coverage last month.

With the merger of Bond Pearce and Dickinson Dees going live on 1 May and Withers and Speechly Bircham confirming merger talks in March, partners at Mills & Reeve were due to vote at press time on a potential tie-up with Manchester-based George Davies. This news came just days after Thomas Eggar announced its own merger with City firm Pritchard Englefield.

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Details emerge of terms of Cobbetts’ fire sale

DWF acquired Cobbetts’ work in progress (WIP) from KPMG in February for £3.8m as details emerge of the Manchester firm’s fire sale.

KPMG was instructed on 17 January to start administration proceedings, although Cobbetts’ lender, Lloyds TSB, had engaged KPMG in September to formulate contingency plans as the firm was beginning to falter. Continued trading was dependent on the support of Lloyds TSB, which was only prepared to provide monies to pay January wages and other outgoings if Cobbetts granted security.

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Semple Fraser Appoints administrators

Scotland’s Semple Fraser has gone into administration, with Tom MacLennan and Kenny Craig, partners with accountants RSM Tenon, appointed joint administrators.

The move comes less than a week after the firm announced its intention to appoint administrators on 6 March. Although a raft of firms have stepped in to take over parts of Semple Fraser’s business, 62 people at the firm, including lawyers and support staff, have been made redundant.

‘It is with great regret that after having considered every possible option to secure the future of the business it was clear that administration is the only option,’ said Simon Etchells, managing partner of the firm.

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Wiggin opens Brussels office in push for alternative income

Media boutique Wiggin has officially opened its doors in Brussels, as the firm’s pursuit of sustainable alternative revenue streams sets a benchmark for non-legal services for law firms.

The Brussels office, which launched in February, is key to developing a distinct arm of the firm’s business, Incopro, into Europe. Incopro was launched in March 2012 as a partnership between Wiggin’s rights protection practice (led by partner Simon Baggs) and Bret Boivin, formerly of Warner Bros and NBC Universal, to provide content protection services to media companies.

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Addleshaw Goddard and Nabarro end merger talks

Addleshaw Goddard and Nabarro have confirmed that they were in merger talks at the start of the year but the former is understood to have called the talks off.

In separate statements released by both firms, Addleshaws and Nabarro said that discussions would not progress any further.

Nabarro said: ‘Nabarro and Addleshaw Goddard did hold very preliminary conversations to explore a possible merger. However, both firms agreed not to pursue discussions further.’

It is thought that Addleshaws decided that there weren’t sufficient business interests for the firm to merge with Nabarro. One former Nabarro partner said the talks were being held before Christmas, with the firms exchanging financial information, although both firms declined to comment on this point.

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White & Case launches in Madrid with Latham hire

White & Case has launched its first office in Spain, recruiting Latham & Watkins’ Spanish corporate head Juan Manuel de Remedios to joint lead its new Madrid office as an executive partner.

The Spanish launch comes as the firm concentrates on strengthening its global footprint to take advantage of Spain’s strong links to Latin America.

White & Case Spanish practice head Michael Doran, who is based in London, said the Madrid launch ‘provides our clients with local knowledge coupled with access to our global network’.

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Davis Polk and Linklaters win landmark Lehman settlement

Davis Polk and Linklaters win landmark Lehman settlement

Linklaters and Davis Polk & Wardwell have won a settlement agreement in the long-running Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that ‘unlocks’ $9bn of assets and sees them returned to the bank’s customers.

Linklaters acted for administrators PwC, an instruction the firm has enjoyed since Lehman collapsed in 2008, on all English law matters.

The Magic Circle firm has fielded a large team acting for PwC, including restructuring partners David Ereira, Tony Bugg and Richard Holden in London and litigation partner James Warnot in New York.

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Falling QC appointments reflect fears for criminal Bar’s prospects

QC appointments have declined for the fourth year running with the number of applicants also on a downward path.

In this year’s annual silk round, announced on 27 February, just 84 QCs were appointed from a total of 183 applicants. This was down from 88 awards in 2012 and 120 in 2011 from 214 and 251 applications respectively.

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US firms on the march as Global London headcount rises

Foreign firms in London made bulking up their senior ranks their key priority in 2012, with average partner headcount hitting an all time high, according to the 11th annual Legal Business Global London survey.

The overall number of partners at Global London firms climbed from 1,296 in 2011 to 1,325, proving that the Capital is still one of the most vital legal markets in the world. The top 50 foreign firms in London by headcount added an extra 29 partners to their respective firms compared to last year, with lateral hiring as the main reason for growth.

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Barclays law chief gets £3.7m share award

If there was any remaining doubt that the lot of the modern general counsel at a major bluechip is a challenging but increasingly well rewarded role, news last month of a controversial bonus round at Barclays should put that to rest.

The bank announced on 20 March that it was awarding nine executives a total of £40.2m in shares, with outgoing group general counsel Mark Harding receiving shares worth over £3.7m.

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