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Charles Russell Speechlys Combination Set to Transform Top Tier of Private Wealth and Business Law Firms

16 July 2014

This article was written prior to the formation of Charles Russell Speechlys, through the merger between Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham.

The partners of both Speechly Bircham and Charles Russell have today voted overwhelmingly in favour of a merger which will create one of the world’s leading private wealth and business law firms.

The new firm of Charles Russell Speechlys will have 170 partners, a total of 500 lawyers and combined revenues of £135m, placing it well within the UK top 30. Charles Russell Speechlys will open for business on 1 November 2014.

The firm will be one of a small number of major international law firms which combine a pre-eminent private wealth practice with a significant business law capacity - offering an integrated service for wealthy individuals, family offices, wealth managers and large, privately held businesses throughout the UK and across the world.
This integrated service reflects the depth of the new firm’s business law practice - with significant strengths in the real estate and construction sectors, transactional expertise across the financial services sector and specialist employment, intellectual property and commercial teams advising public companies in sectors such as retail and leisure, sports and TMT.

Structured around four key Divisions (Business Services, Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Private Client and Real Estate and Construction), the new firm will offer a powerful combination of commercial, business, private wealth, built environment, family and philanthropic experience.

Charles Russell Speechlys will be headquartered in London with a network of offices in some of Europe and the Gulf’s main wealth and business centres. Long-standing relationships and networks throughout the United States, Africa and the Caribbean will extend the geographical reach of the new firm. All clients will benefit from access to integrated advice from a single platform.

The strength of partner support for the merger reflects a shared view of the need to achieve both scale and reach in helping clients access lucrative new markets, as well as to handle more routine work with maximum efficiency. Duplication and conflicts arising from the merger are thought to be minimal.

“Our determination”, says Christopher Page, a highly rated private client lawyer and senior partner of Charles Russell, “is to deliver enduring value for our clients by giving grounded, personal advice from all our UK offices as well as from our offices in Europe and the Gulf. We know that our clients will find our balanced and integrated expertise and experience, provided efficiently and cost-effectively, a compelling combination. One of the many things we share with Speechly Bircham is our reading of private wealth in the fullest sense of that term. The beauty of the new combination is that it gives us real scale - and the ability to invest - across our practice groups. It will enable us to address the evolving needs of clients within what we describe as the ‘wealth pyramid’.”

James Carter, a corporate tax lawyer who is currently managing partner of Speechly Bircham, concurs: “At the apex of that pyramid sit high net worth individuals and families, many of whom own substantial companies, commercial real estate or residential property. Those assets are often held and managed through sophisticated structures. At this mid-level too sit the specialist asset managers and service providers whom we also serve as clients. At the base of the pyramid sit the trading companies, the investment funds and the personal assets. At all three levels, there is a need for advisory, transactional and contentious services. Many of these services fall way outside the traditional definition of private client services. We will provide them on a fully integrated basis.”

“The real work starts now,” continues James Carter. “Our integration team, headed by David Green, is tasked with finding the very best elements of both firms and making them work effectively together. It will also be looking at workflow, team combinations and optimal use of office accommodation. Looking to the future, patterns of global wealth and business are shifting and changing at an unprecedented rate: we aim to be out ahead of them. We will look to match or adopt the best practices in our pursuit of excellence. We are committing to a multi-million investment in new knowledge management, business development and IT resources, together with specialised business skills training, on top of the professional development that has always been a hallmark of our two practices.”

Christopher Page agrees: “The aim of the merged firm is to develop generations of commercially-trained client partners who understand different disciplines and who provide strategic and long term advice to clients, not just tell them the answers. We are excited at the further possibilities that our combination will now unlock”

Tony Williams, principal of legal strategy consultants Jomati said of the merger: “This combination creates a major firm truly able to serve the diverse needs of an increasingly sophisticated and demanding private wealth and related sectors. The firm will be positioned to provide an unrivalled level of service to these multi-national clients.”