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Business as usual: WLG’s Andrew Witts wins contested election for chair

Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co (WLG) chairman Andrew Witts has been re-elected to serve as chairman for a further four years, after serving an initial two-year term after the merger between Wragges and Lawrence Graham (LG).

Witts previously served as chairman of legacy firm LG for three years before the firm’s merger with Wragges went live on 1 May 2014. Following the tie-up, Witts then took the chairman role at WLG for an initial period of two years, which was due to end on 30 April 2016.

However following an election which he won against one other candidate, Witts will continue to serve on WLG’s board alongside chief executive David Fennell in what is seen as a strong partnership endorsement of the existing management team ahead of WLG’s combination with Canadian firm Gowlings in January.

Although chair of the firm, Witts maintains an active practice, advising clients on complex fraud and asset recovery cases, and has been involved in a number of high-profile matters, working for administrators, liquidators, corporates, banks and governments. Alongside LG’s former managing partner Hugh Maule, Witts was instrumental in bringing through the merger with Wragges, opposite current head of international projects Quentin Poole and Fennell’s predecessor at Wragges Ian Metcalfe.

Witts was also involved, along with Fennell, Poole and director Jenny Hardy, in senior management talks which finalised WLG’s combination with Gowlings, while Gowlings’ chief executive and chair Scott Jolliffe, partner Lorne Segal and one of the firm’s two managing partners, Peter Lukasiewicz, led for the ten-office firm.

Speaking to Legal Business at the time, Witts said the union, which will house around 1,400 lawyers, was part of a strategy endorsed by the partnership last Christmas.

‘On the WLG side we made a commitment to find and establish a combination on this scale as a critical first step in becoming an international, sector-focused law firm. That was the agreed headline strategy and conveniently Gowlings fitted.’

Gowling WLG, which goes live on 18 January 2016, will be structured as a UK company limited by guarantee (CLG) with both profits and partnerships kept separate. The combination will be governed by a joint board consisting of Fennell, Gowlings’ duo Jolliffe and Lukasiewicz, and two other representatives from both firms, though these positions have yet to be announced. Witts will remain in his role for WLG’s offices in the UK, Europe and Asia.

Meanwhile Jolliffe will step down as chair at Gowlings after almost eight years, with Lukasiewicz to become chief executive and chair.