BIG FIVE – Now PwC law firms merge

Chris Tite of Coopers’ former law firm, Tite & Lewis, will become managing partner, while his colleague Mark Lewis will be joint senior partner, alongside Chris Arnheim of PW’s Arnheim & Co.

One of the first challenges facing the new law firm will lie in co-ordinating the dozens of separate affiliated law firms in Europe.

Confirmation of the merger came as law firms with Big Five connections featured heavily in a survey of the top 50 solicitors.

Herbert Smith, which works closely with Arthur Andersen, ranked eight in The Lawyer’s 1997/1998 top 50 legal firms, with gross fees of #115m, and profits up 12%.

Wilde Sapte, whose merger talks with Arthur Andersen collapsed in May, was ranked 18th, with fees of #53m and a 6% rise in profits.

In a vintage year for law firms, profits on average grew between 10% and 20%.

John Ogilvie – a commercial partner at City firm Herbert Smith, which acted for Price Waterhouse during its merger with Coopers & Lybrand – said the long-term trend of accountancy firms diversifying into professional services provided a recession-proof income for law firms.

‘The expansion of the Big Five firms has been good news for lawyers. If there is a recession, there may be less work on the corporate side, but the non-contentious work will increase,’ he said.

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