It has swiftly moved from obscure regional player into one of the most closely watched practices on the national scene and financial results announced today (6 June) confirm the extent of its dramatic ascent. DWF, which has completed five mergers in under 18 months, has unsurprisingly reported significant revenue and profit increases for the 2012/13 financial year.Turnover at the law firm is up 84% to £188m, while the firm’s net profit is up 41%, with profit per equity partner standing at £429,000, against £408,000 the previous year.
Andrew Leaitherland, who has led the firm’s remarkable growth since becoming managing partner in 2006, when turnover was just £34m, 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 further underlined its national ambitions this week after announcing that it had appointed former Eversheds chairman David Gray as a non-executive board director.
The past year-and-a-half has seen the firm expand dramatically after merger discussions with the ailing Cobbetts collapsed in January 2012. The firm announced a deal with Newcastle practice Crutes shortly afterwards before insurance boutique Buller Jeffries was acquired to bolster its Birmingham offering in May. July saw the firm complete its most significant tie-up of 2012: adding around 40 partners in Glasgow and Edinburgh through the acquisition of Scottish blueblood Biggart Baillie. This Anglo-Scottish deal was eclipsed only in scale and prestige by McGrigors’ acquisition by Pinsent Masons last May.
By the turn of 2013 the firm was back on the acquisition trail again, this time picking up City professional indemnity boutique Fishburns before rounding off (for now) by picking up 419 staff from the insolvent Cobbetts in a pre-pack deal. The net result is a firm with revenues close to those in the top 20 of the Legal Business 100.
The firm’s rise has divided peers, with some hailing its ambition and drive while others claim its pace of growth will be unsustainable – not that such claims bother the straight-talking Leaitherland. Nevertheless, DWF faces a challenge to integrate its run of acquisitions, with the firm in May announcing up to 80 jobs were at risk in a review of its business. How this ultimately pans out will be watched closely by rivals.