Merger creates major Marlborough firm

by Sophie Schroder22 Aug 2014
Two important Marlborough firms have announced they will be merging from October 1 to create one of the largest firms in the region.

Wain & Naysmith Lawyers and Crichton Loach Lawyers are set to join forces, and the name of the merged firm will remain as Wain & Naysmith.

The move will also see the firm have a majority proportion of women in senior roles, with five of the seven senior lawyers being female.

NZ Lawyer spoke to three of the women involved in the merger about the benefits of the move and future plans.

Wain & Naysmith’s Audrey Seaton says she and her fellow directors, Alan Naysmith and Marty Wilson are delighted to welcome the new team on board.

Seaton says expanding the legal team means the firm can specialise further and have more support across the broad spectrum of legal advice.

In fact, she herself merged her own firm Townshend Seaton with Wain & Naysmith in 2011 after the other partner-owner, Andrew Townshend, retired.

“I looked around and thought, ‘where would I like to be?’” she says. “Now, we’ve got a nice firm here with a good wide practice. We do legal work of all types, and the bigger the pool of knowledge the better quality work.”

The newly merged firm will now have 21 staff, including three directors, two consultants and two associates.

Wain & Naysmith has just introduced completely new practise management system software which they are now working on streamlining across the business, Seaton says.

And the firm is also busy renovating its premises in the historic Parsonage Chambers in preparation for the new arrivals. The building is a 103-year old homestead that was the original parsonage for the Methodist church.

Chrichton Loach partners Libby Lockhart and Marianne Startup are looking forward to the merge with Wain & Naysmith, which they believe will make the firm the second largest in the region.

“I think it’s about having a bigger resource base and people with different knowledge. It’s great to have a team you can use as a sounding board,” Lockhart told NZ Lawyer. “As a business model it’s cost-effective. There are efficiencies of scale.”

But the merger also means that the new team will now buck trends within the profession by having a vast female majority in the senior roles.

The women admit this happened “more by accident than design”, but say the roots of Chrichton Loach were completely female-focused.

“We’ve come from an all-women law firm,” says Startup. “It started because we all had small children… [Flexibility] was really important to us – it was critical. It was a very collaborative approach initially, and when we employed solicitors who then went on to have children themselves, we had a very good understanding of their needs.”

Times have certainly changed, she says, remembering that 20 years ago there wasn’t a single female in a senior legal role in Blenheim to be seen.

“Our male colleagues have had to acknowledge that when over 50% of graduates are females, you’re going to have to accept them into the ranks.”

All involved think the bigger and newly renovated firm can only hold good things for the future and the legal offering in the South.

“You’ve got collegial support, wider knowledge and wider skill base, and it’s easier to get access to resources,” Lockhart says.