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Wealth advisory firm bought by legal services group

Legal services firm Irwin Mitchell Group, which has several offices nationwide, has extended its reach into financial services after creating a professional partnership by buying a London-based wealth advisory firm, its chief executive has said.

Announcing the purchase of high net-worth advisory firm Berkeley Law, Andrew Tucker said: “This is an important strategic acquisition, which will enable us to broaden the range of services that our experts on complex financial matters can currently offer.”

In 2012, Irwin Mitchell Group was reformed as an alternative business structure (ABS)under legislation brought in to allow lawyers to form partnerships with non-lawyers, under rules set out in the Legal Services Act 2007. Legislation brought in 2012 to allow ABSs was nicknamed Tesco Law, because it could lead to consumers receiving legal advice from businesses such as banks and supermarkets.

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As at the end of 2013, Berkeley Law – which has 21 lawyers – had £754,334 in shareholders’ funds.

Nick Rucker, partner for Berkeley Law, said the business was “committed to being the legal and wealth advisory business of choice for high net-worth individuals, both in the UK and abroad”.

He said: “Irwin Mitchell shares a vision to build an independent, legally led wealth business driven by the needs of its clients, not by those who would be serving them.”

Steve Hagues, founder of Yorkshire-based Retiring IFA, said: “We are seeing a merging of the professions. You do not need to be an accountant to do a tax return or a solicitor to do a will. But you do need to be a qualified financial adviser to give financial advice. This, and RDR, is forcing IFAs to look at the opportunities for new income streams.”

Adviser view

Sheriar Bradbury, managing director of London-based Bradbury Hamilton, said: “Legislation in the legal business has had a similar effect on lawyers that RDR has had on IFAs.

“More regulation, higher overheads, potentially lower margins and a much more uncertain future have forced many smaller law firms to think innovatively in order to prevent going to the wall.”