This website uses cookies

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. By using our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy

Lexis+ AI
Helen Goatley

Partner and Chair, Moore Barlow

Quotation Marks
For a merger to be successful, it is essential that both parties get to know and understand one another to ensure that they are a good fit

Five lessons from a successful law firm merger

Five lessons from a successful law firm merger


This year marks the fourth anniversary since Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins came together to create a new law firm: Moore Barlow. Firm chair Helen Goatley shares the lessons that senior leadership learnt when bringing the two legacy firms together

There’s a famous aphorism by Benjamin Franklin: ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. This holds true of so many things in life, including successful law firm mergers. However, some events you simply cannot plan for. The official merge date on which Moore Barlow came into being was 1 May 2020 – in the midst of a once-in-century global pandemic, in other words.

Despite this unprecedented challenge, we have managed to create a highly successful regional powerhouse and top 100 UK law firm that continues to go from strength to strength. We have learnt many lessons along the way, some of which I would like to share with you here.

Take the time to get to know each other

For a merger to be successful, it is essential that both parties get to know and understand one another to ensure that they are a good fit. From the outset of the pre-merger talks and negotiations, we already had a strong inkling that the two firms would tessellate nicely, as their culture of friendliness, can-do attitude and people-first approach were very similar. This made us confident that we could create something better than the sum of our parts.

Four years on from the merger, this overlap has in fact proved to be even stronger than any of us anticipated: it was amazing to see how everyone rallied together during the pandemic at the point when the two firms officially became Moore Barlow, and to witness how excited and enthused by the merger they were, despite all the chaos and turbulence happening in the outside world.

It was pretty seismic, this collective determination to make it succeed, and affirmed to the senior leadership team that we had made the right call in uniting the two legacy firms.

Be upfront about your red lines

In any merger talks, it is only natural and expected that both sides will have some non-negotiables. This was certainly the case for us. However, because we were open and upfront about these from the outset, the red lines were understood and mutually respected.

Both sides stated their positions in a measured way, and we all had to be open-minded about and respectful of each other’s boundaries and ways of doing things, and ultimately embrace these, if the merger was to be a success. It provided us all with the necessary clarity.

Merge as equals

Mergers are often described as such even when the reality is that it is more of an acquisition – but in our case, it was truly a meeting of equals. It was never a question of winning or losing, or of one merger party coming out on top. We saw that as dangerous territory. During our merger talks, both firms agreed that we had our own strengths and weaknesses, and that those strengths would be lost if one firm were to be subsumed by the other – it just didn’t seem sensible.

Be bold in your ambition

We saw the merger as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we didn’t want to squander, which is why we were determined to set up a new build firm that contained the best of both legacies and improved on those areas where we felt we could still do better. And so, we created everything afresh, from governance, structure and partner profit sharing, through branding and corporate identity.

One of the biggest projects that we carried out as part of this fundamental creative endeavour early on was a collaborative, firm-wide exercise to establish everyone’s collective vision, values and behaviours. Many firms would regard this as a nice-to-have once all the cogs are running, but we deemed it an absolutely essential upfront project for delivering our brand – which it did, in spades. And this distillation of what it means to be Moore Barlow has driven everything else we have done since.

Prepare for growing pains

It has been much easier for us to get used to the merger itself than it has been to adjust to the actual size of the new business: becoming bigger has brought very different opportunities our way.

We immediately found that we had greater influence externally, greater purchasing power and, with greater strength in depth, an ability to tender for jobs that would have been outside our grasp previously. And the work we can now attract is generally more complex, interesting and higher value than before. But we have had to equip our people to use this extra power wisely, skilling them up so as not to squander the world now available to us.

Lexis+ AI