Bristol family law and education specialist Watkins Solicitors has merged with neighbouring high street firm Brain Sinnott & Co.
The newly merged firm will be known as Watkins Solicitors (incorporating Brain Sinnott & Co). It will comprise three offices - in Bedminster, Kingswood and Fishponds - and 10 solicitors.
Beverley Watkins, senior partner at Watkins Solicitors, will head the firm and John Sinnott, senior partner at Brain Sinnott, will remain with the new firm as a consultant.
Watkins told the Gazette the merger was 'a direct result' of the legal aid cuts and changes in the legal market with competition from large operations such as Co-operative Legal Services (CLS).
Public funding for education and most private law family cases was removed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 in April 2013.
Since then Watkins has sought to develop wills and probate and conveyancing practices, while maintaining its private education and family work.
'We've always been a nice family and education firm, but we felt we'd be stronger if we diversified. In the current climate it is dangerous to be reliant on one area of law,' said Watkins.
She said: 'We looked at the areas of work we were turning away. As family lawyers we generate a lot of conveyancing work that we have referred to local firms and we had started getting probate litigation and Brain Sinnott was a good fit.'
Watkins said that many legal aid firms are worried about CLS taking work, but she felt confident that clients still want to access local solicitors who are easily accessible in the high street, especially for family cases.
'All three of our offices are in busy high streets. I can see how the wills and probate might work for the Co-op with its funeral parlours, but with family work, people want tried and tested local solicitors,' she said.
Commenting on the merger, John Sinnott of Brain Sinnott & Co said: 'This is very good news for both our clients and our staff.
'We are joining up with a dynamic and proactive practice that shares our traditional values and aims of providing a service of excellence and a commitment to the local community. We are all very much looking forward to working together.'