Legal – Wilde Sapte backs network

Partners of law firm Wilde Sapte have voted overwhelmingly to join ‘in principle’ Arthur Andersen’s legal network.

More than 90% of the firm’s 70 partners – operating out of five offices worldwide – backed the plan and agreed to pursue further discussions.

But an Andersen’s spokesman dismissed talk of a ‘merger’ due to existing UK law. He said: ‘The move to join the network will probably end in agreement – possibly at the end of this month.’

The spokesman also refused to say whether Wilde Sapte will be forced to scrap its name in favour of the global brand Andersen Tax and Legal.

The move signals an end for Andersen’s current UK legal partners Garrett & Co and Dundas & Wilson which will be subsumed into Wilde Sapte.

An agreement resulting from the negotiations would end Wilde Sapte’s 213 years of independence. Steve Blakeley, managing partner of Wilde Sapte, denied the firm would suffer a loss of independence or name change.

Blakeley said: ‘If the transaction proceeds we would be joining the network of law firms, not merging.’

‘There would be no loss of independence because the firm must remain independent for regulatory purposes. There has been no formal agreement on what name change there will be but the name Wilde Sapte will certainly feature prominently.’

Wilde Sapte is now planning how to bring its five offices into the Andersens’ network, with a particular question mark hanging over its Paris practice which is still understood to be considering a break away.

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