Law firm enters Bristol market with latest acquisition

David Beech

One of Bristol’s oldest independent law firms has been acquired by a national firm.

Meade King, which can trace its roots back to the 1790s, has been bought by Knights, which recently united its Leeds-based staff at the Majestic building in the city centre.

Knights say the acquisition is the first step in a major expansion into Bristol’s professional services market.

Knights was one of the first UK law firms to float on the stock market and has been on an ambitious acquisition spree over the last five years, with purchases including businesses in Yorkshire.

Meade King serves Bristol and the South West market and has a strong corporate and real estate offering, alongside dispute resolution and private wealth practices.

The acquisition has added 29 fee earners to Knights’ existing 1,500 professionals across the UK, and marks its entry into the Bristol market.

It also complements Knights’ existing Exeter and Cheltenham offices and joins up its presence in the region, giving the group a strong base to build a significant operation for expansion into the South West.

James Christacos, Knights client services director, said: “It not only provides us with an entry point into Bristol but it gives us a platform from which to pursue further expansion in the city through both recruitment and additional acquisition opportunities.

“This deal is a first step into Bristol, and we are focussed on exploring larger acquisitions in the city, and recruiting high quality talent in the city to enable us to build significant scale and expand across the region.”

Meade King is Knights’ 21st acquisition, and its 19th since its placing on the stock market in 2018.

In that time, Knights has grown revenues from £35m to £125m and become the UK’s largest commercial legal services business outside of London.  The acquisition takes Knights to 23 locations across the UK.

James Hawkins, managing partner of Meade King, said: “Having built a competitive position in Bristol and delivered strong growth over the past two years, we are thrilled to be joining Knights, which has a strong reputation in the regions across the UK.

“As we enter the next phase of our growth as part of a larger group, we are excited by the benefits that Knights’ scale, deep central resource and unique business model will bring to our people and our clients.”

Knights also announced its half year results. Revenue at the firm increased by 19 per to £71.2m and underlying profit before tax was up by 19 per cent to £9m.

Knights chief executive David Beech said: “Knights has delivered profitable, cash generative growth over the period and maintained this positive momentum into the second half.

“We are delighted that our group is now the largest regional commercial law firm in the UK. The strength of the Knights brand, and our reputation as a trusted and quality adviser, underpins our ability to attract and retain top industry talent, high-quality clients and acquisition targets.

“Our scale and unique proposition is resonating with a wider range of companies than ever before, including further afield in the USA and Europe. This positions us well as we focus on delivering quality organic growth in the second half and beyond.

“In a relatively flat market, we have driven our revenue growth through acquisitions.  With our focus on improving productivity along with improved gross margins, underpinned by increased interest income, we are confident of delivering full year results in line with market expectations, and continuing to cement our position as the leading legal and professional services business outside London.”