Legal Business Blogs

Dundas & Wilson woes continue as it loses private equity duo to Mishcons

Dundas & Wilson has lost private equity partners Simon Sale and Nadim Meer to Mishcon de Reya, the latest in a series of partner exits from the Scottish firm.

Sale and Meer will move to 300-lawyer Mishcon, along with senior associate Allison Keyse, once the terms of their exits have been agreed. They will join current Mishcon private equity partners Kevin McCarthy and Andrew Rimmington and the intention is that they will bring clients with them. Before joining Dundas, both worked at Hammonds (now Squire Sanders).

The expansion of Mishcon’s private equity offering is of little surprise, given the firm’s recent success providing commercial legal services to private capital and wealthy entrepreneurial clients. Head of corporate, Nick Davis, said the private equity team ‘has always acted for high-net-worth family offices, based on the private equity model, and investment holdings with a 3-5 year exit.’

However, the latest departures are another blow for Dundas, which has suffered multiple departures in the last year. Most notable was the resignation of long-serving corporate partner Michael Polson in November, as well as former Stephenson Hardwood CEO John Pike, who left Dundas after less then a year to join Osborne Clarke in February.

Other recent exits include technology and media expert Paul Graham who left for Field Fisher Waterhouse, while restructuring head Claire Massie moved to Pinsent Masons. Real estate specialists Shane Toal and Martin Thomas also went to Osborne Clarke and Wragge & Co respectively.

In statement Dundas said it was continuing to focus its London office on ‘key areas of strength’. This includes work flowing from the cross-border UK real estate team recently hired from Semple Fraser and a reappointment earlier this year by Land Securities to its panel.

Co-managing partner Allan Wernham said the firm had been ‘very clear’ in the last six months about its strategy, and ‘for London that means a focus on playing to our strengths by investing in the areas we are best known for’.

‘Taking this approach will enable our corporate practice to play a key role in delivering our strategic ambitions for high-growth sectors across the London marketplace,’ he added.

However Douglas Connell, senior partner of Turcan Connell -which spun out from Dundas in the late nineties – suggested that the exits were a planned response to recent poor financial performance.

Dundas was the worst-performing firm in the LB100 last year, posting a 12% fall in revenues to £54.5m, while profit per lawyer was down 36% to £49,000.

‘It was a conscious and deliberate decision that the number of equity partners should also reduce,’ said Connell. ‘In that kind of process, I think one should admire the leadership. I think that they are actually making tough decisions.’

He added that it is inevitable that downsizing leads to the defection of partners.

‘There are some unexpected consequences and fallout. Firms that are actually taking this kind of deliberate restructuring will be the ones who’ll survive. It’s the ones who haven’t done so that will suffer. It’s a painful period for Dundas, being one of the greatest Scottish firms, but it’s necessary.’