Wragge & Co is eyeing a merger in Germany – hours after Birmingham’s biggest law firm struck a deal with London-based Lawrence Graham.
The new firm, Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, will come into being from May 2014, after the partnerships of both firms gave the merger their overwhelming backing.
The merger creates a £171 million business with 1,300 people, including 770 lawyers, operating from ten offices worldwide.
It follows a lengthy search by Wragge & Co for a suitable firm to merge with but senior partner Quentin Poole admitted further growth was already on the agenda as the firm seeks to consolidate its presence in London.
“We have been looking at something like this for a few years and have been in discussion with them since July,” said Mr Poole.
“This is to some extent an end in itself as we thought it necessary to add more significant scale than we could by organic growth in London.
“That is good in itself but it will give us a platform to do some other things, including growing in Birmingham and internationally.
“We are working on various options including a merger in Germany.”
The new firm will offer a broader range of services, increased capability in London and the UK and enhanced international coverage. It will be home to a real estate practice, an equity capital markets practice and offer expertise in investment funds, private capital, IP, pensions and construction.
It will have offices in Birmingham, Brussels, Dubai, Guangzhou, London, Monaco, Moscow, Munich, Paris and Singapore.
Wragge & Co managing partner elect David Fennell will become the new firm’s chief executive, with Quentin Poole as senior partner and Lawrence Graham senior partner Andrew Witts as chairman.
Mr Poole said strengthening Wragge’s presence in London was paramount moving forward as it seeks to extend its global reach.
“For large corporate firms like us I think the challenge is that the legal world is obviously becoming more international and it is essential to have the skill to be able to face up to all of that,” he said.
“The reality is we live in two countries, one called London and the other called the rest of the UK.
“The international market tends to deal through London still, so we feel we need some more presence on the ground in London.”
He added: “It is about attracting London and US investors who wouldn’t traditionally use a Birmingham firm.
“For us it is also about attracting ultra high-net-worth individuals, such as people investing in property in London, which is hard in Birmingham
“They all tend to be international businesspeople – this gives us the opportunity to access those kind of clients and opens up a new window.”
Mr Poole said the merger would also be a boost for Birmingham, with the firm creating additional jobs as it prepares to move to its new home at Two Snowhill.
“It’s a bit like Jaguar Land Rover – Birmingham-based but with operations all over the world,” he said.
“They manufacture products in Birmingham and Halewood but sell them all around the world. That is our business model, producing legal advice and professional services in Birmingham and selling them to the much more affluent and larger London market and the rest of the world.”
He added: “We will be creating more jobs in Birmingham and our management is very Birmingham-centric.
“I think it is great for Birmingham – it is Birmingham growing up and growing out.
“This gives us a fuller more comprehensive offering to the market – we can attract work we couldn’t otherwise attract and a lot of that work can be done in Birmingham.”
The merger will create one of the UK’s largest real estate practices, acting for institutions, investors, developers and occupiers. It will be the number one AIM firm by market capitalisation and a highly rated firm for investment funds work.