In the Media

Takeover fever lifts fast-rising DWF

PUBLISHED June 6, 2013

Thursday 06 June 2013 by Gazette reporter

A spate of acquisitions - including that of defunct Cobbetts - boosted income at business law firm DWF by 84% in the latest financial year, while profit per equity partner rose by a comparatively modest 4%.

For the year to 30 April, the firm today reported an 84% increase in revenue to £188m, propelling DWF toward the UK top 20 by size. PEP climbed from £412,000 last time to £429,000, while net profit climbed 41% to a reported £20.5m.

The year 2012/2013 saw the completion of several significant deals for DWF, including mergers with: Scottish-based practice, Biggart Baillie; Birmingham firm, Buller Jeffries; and professional indemnity practice, Fishburns.

In February DWF also acquired Cobbetts in a controversial pre-pack buyout, taking total staff numbers to over 2,500.

Andrew Leaitherland (pictured), managing partner and chief executive of DWF, said: 'We have been very clear about our ambition to expand our national presence, and that we see strategic mergers with like-minded firms as a key part of this.

'The decisions we've undertaken in the past year have all been led by market demand and have served to reinforce the expertise we have as a team.'

DWF's expansion has been supported by lateral hires.

These included the appointment of commercial litigation partner Andrew Harris, from DLA Piper; partner, John Perez, and his legal team from Chafes Solicitors to DWF's national asset finance team; and the appointment of leading aviation and asset finance specialist, Alison Wilds, and her team from Harbottle & Lewis.

DWF also recently announced the appointment of four new partners - including Gavin Jackson, Adam Heather and Adrian Stanley - and eight lawyers from Eversheds to its real estate team.

DWF has also made a number of appointments to its management team, with Paul Rimmer taking up the position as executive partner of the Liverpool office and David Gray, former chairman of Eversheds International, joining the firm as a non-executive board director last month.

Leaitherland added: 'We have achieved a lot this year and made significant headway towards our goal of becoming a top-20 law firm and this is down to the fantastic effort of all of our people, and tremendous support from our clients.

'We have more exciting plans on the horizon for the coming year which will lead to further growth in net profit and turnover. The appointment of David demonstrates our ambition for not only national, but international growth.'

Another firm with top-20 ambitions filed its results earlier this week. Olswang, the international technology, media and telecoms reported a 3% growth in revenues, from £108m to £111.3m. Profits are expected to match last year's performance, with resulting profit per equity partner of £510,000, an expected 4% fall on last year's £530,000.

Olswang chief executive David Stewart commented: 'Following last year's significant increase in revenue and profits, this year was more challenging. We had a tough first half, but the firm had a better third and fourth quarter, and we're content with the overall result given market conditions.

'Stand-out contributions from our German, Belgian and Spanish colleagues were much appreciated, and in particular our international IP and corporate practice groups had a good year.'

He added: 'We have budgeted for a significant rise in turnover and profits this year, as our investments in new partners and offices pay dividends, and our three-year plan is ambitious: we are aiming to be in the top 20 by 2016.

'Our international offices have increased their overall revenue contribution by 35 % this year, and international turnover is planned to be over 40% of total revenues by 2016.'