I have just merged my practice and have learned a few things, some more expensively than others. What I have gleaned may be of interest to smaller firms looking at merger options.
1. Legal aid novation: the Legal Aid Agency will not entertain novation of any contract unless both firms certify that there is no Crown debt owing by all concerned. This is guaranteed to eliminate novation as a realistic option for many firms.
2. LAA contract termination: this will result in sanctions being applied as a matter of routine (per our contract manager) while the LAA considers the individual situation. This may well include a payment freeze imposed without notice. This happened to us and led to a shortfall with the bank for which my partner and I will be personally liable.
3. Professional indemnity: upon successor practice being confirmed by the lead firm in the merger, and its own policy endorsed accordingly, my own insurer declined to issue any rebate of premiums paid, pointing out a clause in the policy which permitted this.
As we were a criminal law firm with relatively low premiums, the loss (gift to the insurance industry) was only about £2,000. It is not hard to imagine much higher figures for other types of small firm.
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