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Fallout begins as Dundas & Wilson suffers spate of partner exits post-CMS merger deal

The fallout from Dundas & Wilson‘s recently announced takeover by CMS Cameron McKenna has begun in earnest, with the Scottish firm confirming that a number of partners are to leave.

Construction partner Siobhan McCloskey-Oudahar; head of real estate disputes Andrew Walker; employment partner David Walker; head of environment Mark Brumwell; employment partner Mandy Laurie; IP/IT partner Allan Wardhaugh; and corporate partner and former chairman David Hardie have either left or will leave the ailing Scottish giant ahead of the merger this summer.

On the departures, Dundas co-managing partners Caryn Penley and Allan Wernham released a statement this morning (8 January): ‘Both CMS and Dundas & Wilson have been pleased with the enthusiastic response from clients, partners and employees to our proposed merger. Over the next few months our focus will be on combining the strengths of CMS and Dundas & Wilson to ensure our clients receive the very best of our expertise and innovation from 1 May 2014.’

‘Shortly before we put the proposal to combine with CMS to our partners, Siobhan McCloskey-Oudahar, Andrew Walker and (as previously announced) David Walker intimated their intention to resign from the firm. Siobhan is leaving us to take up a position as a legal adviser with the Government Legal Service in the Department for Transport towards the end of February. Andrew and David retired from the partnership at the end of 2013. In addition, Mark Brumwell, David Hardie, Mandy Laurie and Allan Wardhaugh have decided to leave the firm before we merge.’

While it has since emerged that David Walker has moved to Morton Fraser’s employment team in Glasgow, the destination of the remaining departees remains unclear.

The departure of former chairman Hardie is particularly significant as he held the role during one of Dundas’ most difficult recent periods, including being quoted in The Herald in 2012 as saying: ‘It is not that we have taken out 30 people and shot them’ in response to news that the firm was to make around 30 staff redundant.

Though the recent confirmation of a tie-up between CMS Cameron McKenna and Dundas & Wilson before Christmas came as a surprise to many in the profession, the news that partners are to leave beleaguered Dundas in the aftermath of the deal may not.

The latest departures Dundas are a reminder of the pressure faced by one of Scotland’s most storied firms following multiple exits in 2012/13 including corporate partners Julian Matthews and Simon Sale, along with banking and finance partner Michael Wrigley, while the London office lost Martin Thomas, one of the firm’s top litigators, to Wragge & Co, along with banking partner John Pike, who quit for Osborne Clarke.

Dundas is set to officially lose its name and be rebranded as CMS Cameron McKenna following a transitional period while partners and staff at Dundas’ London office will also move out of their current premises in Aldwych to CMS’s new City premises Cannon Place, where the lease will officially begin in 2015.

The merger creates a firm of 830 partners and 5,600 employees operating in 57 offices in 31 countries with revenues of around €900m, if you count the CMS international grouping. A merger with the actual Cameron McKenna partnership creates a far smaller firm – with combined revenues of less than £300m. The vote follows six months of talks that were held closely within both firms.