D&W legal firm taken over by London rival

Caryn Penley and Allan Wernham of Edinburgh law firm Dundas & Wilson. Picture:Jane Barlow
Caryn Penley and Allan Wernham of Edinburgh law firm Dundas & Wilson. Picture:Jane Barlow
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DUNDAS & Wilson, Scotland’s largest law firm, is to be swallowed by London-based CMS Cameron McKenna, the world’s tenth-largest legal practice, it has emerged.

Rumours had circulated since the summer that D&W, which traces its roots back to 1759, had been in talks with City law firms over a potential merger following the collapse of talks with Bircham Dyson Bell in 2011.

D&W has lost 15 partners in the past year and in July posted a 10.6 per cent drop in revenues to £48.7 million in the year to 30 April.

CMS said that it had been attracted to the deal by D&W’s energy and financial services practices. The D&W name will “transition over time to CMS, but not immediately”, the two firms said.

Partners at CMS voted on the deal yesterday, although the firm is believed to have begun discussing it in July, with D&W partners being told of the talks last week.

In a joint statement, Caryn Penley and Allan Wernham, D&W’s managing partners, said: “We believe that together D&W and CMS would have unrivalled strength and depth in Scotland, an exceptional UK platform and global reach.”

Duncan Weston, managing partner at CMS in London, said: “D&W is the most prestigious law firm in Scotland and we are delighted that they are joining CMS. With D&W, we believe we can offer many of our clients, particularly in the energy and financial institution sectors, a stronger and better service.”

Stephen Millar, CMS’s practice group manager for energy, projects and construction, added: “There are strong and compelling client synergies. Clients want law firms that can combine depth, breadth, quality and value simultaneously. CMS and D&W together does just that. We have been very pleased by the response from clients.”

The deal will create a law firm with revenues of €900m (£750m) plus more than 830 partners and 5,600 staff operating in 57 offices in 31 countries.

Staff from D&W’s Aberdeen and London offices will move into CMS’s branches in the cities, while workers at CMS’s Edinburgh practice will move into D&W’s site.

When asked about job implications, a spokeswoman for CMS said: “This is about growth in our energy, financial institutions and, most importantly, our Scottish practices.”

D&W is the latest Scottish law firm to be swallowed up by a rival from south of the Border.

Last year London-based international law firm Pinsent Masons took over Glasgow-based McGrigors, at the time Scotland’s biggest practice. The deal created a combined group employing more than 2,500 staff including 1,500 lawyers. In the 12 months before the deal, McGrigors turned over around £70m compared with Pinsent Masons’ £212.5m.

Smaller firms have also been linking up during a round of consolidation in the legal sector, with DWF tieing the knot with Biggart Baillie and DAC Beachcroft joining forces with Andersons Solicitors.

News of the D&W deal comes just days after a proposed merger between Edinburgh-based specialist litigation outfit Simpson & Marwick and international law firm Kennedys was called off due to what the two practices said were “complex reasons”.

The Law Society of Scotland said: “We would speak to any firms as they go through a merger process to make sure what they do is fully compliant with our regulations.”