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West End firms Finer Stephens Innocent and Howard Kennedy merge in £45m deal

Posted by: Laurence Simons 10/08/12

Similar approaches facilitated the move.

West End-based legal firms Howard Kennedy and Finers Stephens Innocent (FSI) have announced plans to merge this week in a deal worth a reported £45 million ($70 million).

The Lawyer exclusively revealed the merger today (August 9th), with plans to cram the two companies' names into each other thusly: Howard Kennedy FSI.

A reported 351 full-time staff will benefit from the move, including 88 partners and 125 fee-earners, with scope for more legal jobs in London as a result. With a combined revenue stream estimated to be £45 million in the first year, the new partnership should jet the firm into a top 60 ranking on The Lawyer's UK 200 charts.

FSI managing partner Paul Millett was a key proponent of the deal, working closely with Howard Kennedy's chief executive Mark Dembovsky to broker the quick merger of the two firms into a central London "powerhouse". Talks began in February, with staff and both companies being notified of the result of said talks today.

Dembovsky is Howard Kennedy's first non-lawyer chief executive, and has radically changed the traditionally conservative nature of the firm's strategy by opening up financials and internal communication as well as confronting partner disunity in the short time since his arrival in January '11.

Changes include breaking the three-year partner bottleneck in March this year, while the FSI deal is set to accelerate modernisation of the firm.

And Demovsky revealed he had held loose talks with a number of legal houses over a possible merger ahead of the partnership with FSI as the company looks to further evolve under his stead.

"I believe there's been tremendous change," said Millett. "I wouldn't be doing this deal if I was not 100 per cent satisfied that the partnership is up for change. What's in the past is in the past. Howard Kennedy is a very different firm today."

And in a statement announcing the move Millet revealed that the two firms' complementary ideologies and approaches to the law facilitated the move, like one big happy Venn diagram.

"Our practices, people and client base are perfectly aligned and we share a common vision as to how this combination differentiates us from the rest of the legal market," he said.

"Throughout our discussions we've been impressed by the cultural similarities of our firms and by the many cross-selling opportunities that will be afforded by our coming together."