Knights swoops in latest acquisition deals to extend reach

Legal and professional services business, Knights, has sealed a deal to acquire Baines Wilson an independent law firm with offices in Carlisle and Lancaster.

The Staffordshire-based firm has also acquired St James Law Limited, trading as St James’ Square, a Newcastle-based commercial law firm.

The acquisition of St James’ Square brings 23 fee earners to Knights and provides entry into Newcastle, an important strategic location which complements the group’s existing Teesside presence.

In its unaudited accounts for the year ended 31 December 2022, St James’ Square reported revenue of £2.4m and a corporatised PBT margin, excluding the debt recovery business, of circa five per cent.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Knights will acquire St James’ Square from its four existing owner-managers, two employees and an investor on a debt free, cash free basis, for a total consideration of £1.75m.

In its unaudited accounts for the year ended 31 March 2023, Baines Wilson reported revenue of £3.2m and a corporatised PBT margin of circa 20%.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Knights will acquire Baines Wilson from its five existing equity partners on a debt free, cash free basis, for a total consideration of £3.37m.

Founded in 1999, Baines Wilson serves the Cumbrian and North Lancashire markets and has grown into one of the leading commercial law firms in the North West.

The firm has a strong corporate and real estate offering, alongside dispute resolution and employment practices.

The acquisition adds 24 fee earners to Knights’ existing 1,400 professionals across the UK, and facilitates its entry into the Cumbrian and North Lancashire markets.

The acquisition complements Knights’ existing northern offices in and around Manchester, Chester, Leeds, York and Teesside and enhances its presence in the North West region, giving the group a strong base to build a significant operation for expansion throughout the North of England.

Lisa Shacklock, Knights’ client services director, said: “It not only provides us with an entry point into Cumbria and Carlisle specifically, but it gives us a platform from which to pursue further expansion in both Carlisle and Lancaster through recruitment.

“This deal is a first step for us into both cities and we are focused on recruiting high quality talent to enable us to build significant scale and expand across the region.”

Baines Wilson is Knights’ 22nd acquisition, and its 20th since its IPO in 2018.

In that time, Knights has grown revenues from £35m to £125m and become the UK’s largest commercial legal services business outside London. The addition of Carlisle and Lancaster takes Knights to 25 locations across the UK.

James Sheridan, Knights Group M&A director, said: “We are delighted to be entering new markets as we cement our position as the leading legal and professional service business outside London. We welcome our new colleagues and look forward to working with them to strengthen our foothold throughout the North of England.”

Sean Logue, managing partner, Baines Wilson, said: “Having grown to become one of the leading firms in the North of England, we are thrilled to be joining Knights. As part of a larger group, offering a wider range of services and scale, we are confident that we will be able to accelerate our growth in Carlisle and the surrounding region.”

Paul Monaghan, managing partner, St James’ Square, said: “We are excited to be joining Knights, whose reputation and reach will allow us to enhance our client service offering and ability to recruit from Newcastle’s deep pool of talent.

“We already have strong relationships with the well respected Knights team in Teesside and look forward to working together more closely to capitalise on the significant market opportunity in the North East of England.”

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