26 Nov 2021

Clyde & Co eyes merger with BLM to gain UK insurance heft

UK Top 50 firms' combined revenue would sit at around £735m

CITY OF LONDON, LONDON-SEPTEMBER 7,2017: The St Botolph Building in high-tech architectural style on September 7, 2017 in London.

Clyde & Co's headquarters in the St Botolph Building Patrik Slezak; Shutterstock

UK top 50 law firms Clyde & Co and BLM are in talks over a potential merger that would add nearly £100m to Clydes' UK revenue.

The potential deal, first reported by RollOnFriday, would combine Clydes' 2,440 legal professionals, including 440 partners, with BLM’s UK-based network of 790 lawyers, including 212 partners, to create a combined firm with revenues of around £735m. 

If the deal comes to fruition it will be the largest UK-focused merger since CMS absorbed Olswang and Nabarro in 2016. It will also be the latest in a long line of UK law firm mergers spanning 30 years driven by large insurance companies' demands for bulk work to be conducted competitively but also consistently and to a high level of quality.

Clydes, the larger and most profitable of the two firms by large margins, saw revenues increase by 2% to £639.6m over its financial year to 30 April against a 7.5% increase in profit-per-equity partner (PEP) to reach £715k. Some 55% of its revenues were generated outside its home market, with North America accounting for 22% of its turnover. 

The firm has been steadily expanding its global footprint and currently has more than 50 offices and associated practices worldwide, including 13 in the the Americas and Asia Pacific respectively, eight in the Middle East and Africa and 16 across the UK and continental Europe. 

Three of Clydes' US outposts opened earlier this year in Phoenix, Denver and Las Vegas when it hired a team of insurance lawyers from Foran Glennon Palandech Ponzi & Rudloff in May to expand its reach across the Southwestern states. The firm also announced plans to open an office in Vancouver just a week later through a merger with local firm SHK Law Corporation. 

But it is no stranger to domestic mergers having absorbed London rival Barlow Lyde & Gilbert back in 2011. Its latest UK deal saw it absorb aviation-focused City boutique REN Legal to boost its transaction and commercial litigation offering in its global aviation practice. 

Meanwhile, the firm has been pursuing a long-term strategy of creating centres of excellence within its regional UK network of offices; a policy that saw it close its Oxford arm and relocate its legal teams to its Manchester and Bristol branches last year.

“We are a firm that has a track record of growth and of continually developing our capabilities for the benefit of our clients,” the firm said in a statement. “At any time we are in discussion with a number of firms, teams or individual lawyers and it is our practice not to comment on these until they near or reach conclusion.”

BLM, meanwhile, has 13 offices in the UK and Ireland. The firm’s financial growth has stagnated in recent years, with turnover hovering around the £100m mark since 2015 and PEP falling 37% in the same period, according to Law.com

The firm has also had to fend off competition from its larger UK insurance specialist competitors, including Kennedys, which hired seven lawyers and three partners in May to beef up its catastrophic injury team. 

In a statement, BLM said: “We are regularly looking at opportunities to further our growth ambitions and often attract parties interested in best utilising our strong market position. At any one time therefore, we may be assessing a number of these opportunities be they acquisition, strategic hire, merger or investment proposition.”

The spokesperson added: “​​In a consolidating market now is no different but we will not take any such opportunities forward unless they help us to progress our vision and are in the best interests of our people, the firm and clients.”

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