Clyde & Co’s £700m merger with BLM goes live

Combination creates UK's 11th largest law firm by revenue and largest casualty insurance team
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

The merger between international insurance giant Clyde & Co and UK-focused BLM has gone live today, creating an insurance behemoth with revenue in excess of £700m.

The combined firm, known as Clyde & Co, has a headcount of more than 5,000, including 2,600 lawyers, and offices in more than 60 cities worldwide.  

The deal has taken effect a little more than three months after it was voted through by partners at both firms. The majority of BLM’s 600 lawyers have joined Clydes’ casualty insurance practice, which, following the merger, will have more than 800 legal professionals, with other groups joining Clydes’ professional liability, healthcare and business advisory teams. 

“The merger has created the biggest casualty practice in the UK and will allow clients to benefit from our expert teams across the UK and Ireland, while benefitting from Clyde & Co’s international presence too,” said Matthew Harrington, former BLM senior partner. 

Pre-merger Clydes was by far the larger of the two firms, with revenue of £639.6m for the 2020/21 financial year, more than half of which came from outside the UK, while BLM generated £96.3m in the same period. The merged firm’s revenue of around £740m puts it just outside the top ten firms in the UK, £470m of which will come from its insurance group. 

“Size matters as clients are increasingly looking for end-to-end support from trusted suppliers across business lines and geographies as they seek partners to support their growth and drive to improve margins in what is an ever-competitive sector. We are delighted that our clients will now be able to benefit from all the merged firm as to offer,” Harrington added. 

BLM’s casualty insurance practice brought in roughly £75m in revenue before the merger, 50% more than the £50m Clydes' casualty group brought to the table. The combined practice – which will cover the low value, high volume insurance policy claims work that was BLM’s focus as well as the complex, high value cases in which Clydes specialised – will be worth around £125m. That makes it the largest such practice in the UK by some margin.

Chris Murray, a Manchester-based partner in Clydes' personal injury defendant team, said: “The merger is our response to insurers’ changing needs. By combining our businesses, we have created a new foundation for casualty claims built on scale, expertise and an innovative vision for the use of technology. 

He added that “becoming the largest player in UK casualty gives us the largest data set in the sector and the ability to invest in the technology that fully unlocks its potential and Clyde & Co Newton is our banner for this technology and innovation”.

Clydes has today relaunched and rebranded its casualty innovation platform as ‘Clyde & Co Newton’. The platform, which the firm said was central to its strategy for delivering the lowest overall indemnity spend for casualty clients, can ‘read’ 99% of all documents required for claims evaluation and can automatically produce valuations for 89% of employers’ liability and public liability claims.

Forty-five equity partners from BLM have joined through the merger, with the combined firm boasting 485 in total. It emerged in May that BLM’s 140 salaried partners would become legal directors upon joining Clydes, which the firm conceded at the time was ‘disruptive and potentially unsettling’ for those involved. 

Clydes put the move down to the fact that it didn’t have salaried partners, though those joining the casualty team are able to apply for the newly-created role of salaried partner, which exists only in that practice, and those outside of it can apply to be equity partners, subject to ongoing consultations. 

The merger also sees Clydes add five new locations to its UK network, meaning it now has a total of 14 across the country. The firm will gain bases in Birmingham and Southampton and will also have a presence in Northern Ireland for the first time through the addition of BLM’s offices in Belfast and Derry. Clydes can now offer services across Ireland, following its launch in Dublin three years ago. 

Clydes will also have a small workspace in Liverpool for 15 former BLM staff members who couldn’t transfer to Manchester, BLM having launched a consultation earlier in the year to offer most its staff in Liverpool roles in Manchester on a hybrid working basis

Both firms have offices in Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Manchester. GLP understands that eventually all former BLM staff will join Clydes offices in cities where the firms have separate locations.

A spokesperson declined to comment on office closures, citing the ongoing nature of the consultation process.  

The deal is the largest UK-focused merger since CMS absorbed Olswang and Nabarro in 2016. It is also 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 has been steadily expanding its global footprint and prior to the combination with BLM had more than 50 offices and associated practices worldwide, including 13 in the Americas and Asia Pacific respectively, eight in the Middle East and Africa and 16 across the UK and continental Europe. 

The merger with BLM follows last year’s combination with Vancouver firm SHK Law Corporation in May and the absorption of aviation-focused City boutique REN Legal in October to boost its transaction and commercial litigation offering in its global aviation practice. 

YearTargetLocationApprox No. Partners
2005Beaumont & SonsLondon18
2011Paskell MeadeMontreal15
2011Barlow Lyde & GilbertLondon80
2015Simpson & MarwickEdinburgh45
2016Lee & LyonsSydney5
2018SedgwickSan Francisco15
2021SHK Law CorporationVancouver6
2021REN Legal London2


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