Dundas & Wilson hit by more departures of partners

Caryn Penley declined to comment on the departure of particular partners. Picture: Jane Barlow
Caryn Penley declined to comment on the departure of particular partners. Picture: Jane Barlow
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SCOTTISH law firm Dundas & Wilson has been hit by another round of departures of partners from its London office.

Those reportedly leaving include banking and finance partner Michael Wrigley, corporate finance specialist Julian Mathews and fellow corporate partner Simon Sale.

The circumstances as to why they had left were unclear yesterday, but one legal observer said the growing queue at the exit was unusual.

“I’m not sure exactly what the 
circumstances are at Dundas & Wilson, but there have certainly been a lot of people leaving during the past year,” he said.

These latest losses from the London office – which is increasingly focusing on property litigation – follow resignations last autumn including senior property litigator Martin Thomas and banking partner John Pike, who had been with the firm less than a year.

Also, Michael Polson, who unsuccessfully stood for managing partner, resigned from his position at the firm’s head office in Edinburgh in November.

In a statement issued yesterday, joint managing partner Caryn Penley declined to comment on the specific individuals in this latest wave of departures.

“However, it is important that we, as managing partners, manage the business,” she said. “This is exactly what we are doing. We are focussing on growth through reinforcing our pre-eminent position in Scotland and investing in our key areas of strength in London. 
Accordingly some partner departures are inevitable.”

Penley and her fellow joint managing partner, Allan Wernham, took over as the interim management team at Dundas & Wilson following the unexpected decision by their predecessor, Donald Shaw, to resign from the top position last March.

Shaw, now a client partner in the firm’s real estate team, stepped down just two years into his three-year term.

Penley and Wernham were selected in their own right in a secret ballot of partners in June.

The departure of Wrigley, Mathews and Sale takes the total roster of partners at Dundas & Wilson to 74, from 82 a year ago.

Like others in the sector, Dundas & Wilson has struggled as the volume of legal work coming through has been choked off by the financial crash and subsequent recession.

Firms have also been plagued by what has been described as “relentless” downward pressure on fees. The firm has laid off dozens in recent years in an attempt to cope with the situation, and also held talks in 2011 about a possible merger with smaller London firm 
Bircham Dyson Bell.

However, those discussions were abandoned in October of that year after failing to gain enough support from partners at both firms.

Having eked out a small rise in revenue and profits following two years of decline, Dundas & Wilson went back into reverse during the financial year to 30 April 2012.

Total revenue fell by 12 per cent to £54.5 million, while profit per equity partner tumbled by 35 per cent, from £325,000 to £210,000.