The boss of an historic Birmingham law firm that has merged with a London practice said that growth will now come from appointments and new clients rather than joining forces with another business.
Martineau managing partner Bill Barker, who will remain the top man of the newly-formed SGH Martineau following the tie-up with Sprecher Grier Halberstam, said the deal delivered more than the company had initially been looking for from a merger.
He said: “What we are doing is squarely in line with the business plan we settled on quite a while ago when we said we wanted to be a bigger firm both in Birmingham and London.
“In London we had a small operation and we said very clearly we wanted to be a bigger firm and we set about finding a smallish firm to merge with. After scouring for a partner we came to SGH which is bigger than we initially had in mind but of course being bigger means you get more. They are in slightly different areas to us which will give something more rounded than the two legacy firms alone.
“Growth in Birmingham we see coming from bringing in partners in terms of teams from other law firms – we don’t see at the moment any natural merger partner in the city. We presently have a turnover of £20 million which will rise to £30 million with the merger and we hope to push that up to £40 million as soon as we can which will come from an ongoing strategy of appointing the right people.
“There are a number of services that we provide like intellectual property, tax or competition that they don’t so straight away we would hope to be able to sell these to their existing clients.”
The merger of the two firms will move it into the top 70 practices in the UK. Martineau currently employs around 240 people in Birmingham and 15 in London while SGH has an office of 90 off Fenchurch Street in the City of London.
Martineau managing partner, Bill Barker, will continue in this role for the new firm, with Andrew Whitehead as senior partner – both based in Birmingham. SGH managing partner Emma Shipp and head of litigation, David Bailey, will join the executive board to help drive growth and ensure the smooth integration of the two businesses.
Ms Shipp said: “We’re very similar in our outlook and ambitions, which will no doubt help as we embark on the process to become one. I’m sure this merger offers even greater opportunities for us both and Bill and I share excitement in anticipating the coming months and years. This merger will add even greater depth to the high quality service both firms already provide and offer real benefits to clients.”
Earlier this week Martineau announced a seven per cent rise in fee income for the first six months of the year but Mr Barker said any future success would depend on a renewed focus on the firm’s core strengths.
He said: “The increase in turnover is very pleasing but what I would say is that while that is a decent indicator at the half year of how things have gone, it is extremely difficult to predict what is going to happen in the future.
“Our strategy revolves around what we call chosen sectors which are areas of the business where we already have strong reputations because of the clients we act for in these sectors and the strategy is investing in these sectors as we think our reputation in these areas can help us win new clients.”
He said that in education the firm acted for a number of top universities up and down the country and in energy it was acting in some capacity for many of the major energy businesses. The company also acts for most of the large banks in the city and has a relationship with Lloyds that goes back to 1828.
And unlike some of the mergers in the sector that have been defensive for one of the firms, Mr Barker was clear that this deal is positive for both parties. “This merger is not about cost saving, it is about being a far broader reaching business,” he said.
And when it came to deciding the new name, while Martineau is the bigger partner, Mr Barker said putting the initials first just made sense.
He said: “Right at the start the thinking was that we have a very very strong name in Birmingham and our name is nowhere near as strong in London so it was inevitable that it would be a combination of the names.
“Our brand was Martineau and they settled on SGH and a precedent has been set previously with initials coming first after a merger so we just felt it seemed more sensible and sounded more natural.”