DLA goes galactic

Matheu Swallow, deputy editor


It’s no good, we’ve failed. As hard as we’ve tried (and believe me, we’ve tried) we just couldn’t do it. Despite devoting the newsdesk’s not inconsiderable efforts to the task of finding a dissenting voice at DLA over its transatlantic merger (on press day to boot), we just couldn’t find anyone willing to stick their heads above the parapet.

As The Lawyer went to press, the yes votes were coming in thick and fast, with nothing to register in the deficit column. The closest to all-out rebellion was someone who held ‘no view’ on the merger.

This must have something to do with the mutated form of democracy that exists in many law firm partnerships today.

As one former DLA partner put it: “As you know, DLA is one man, one vote, and that one man is Nigel Knowles.”

Both DLA and Pinsent Masons, when they voted on the merger, which goes live today (6 December), took the decision through open ballot. At DLA, though, the management keeps a particularly tight rein on its partners, to the extent that managing partner Knowles is personally responsible for counting the proxy votes.

Unlike at Denton Wilde Sapte, which has drafted in Deloitte for its management elections, there will be no independent audit. But then, given absence of dissent, a recount of Floridian proportions is probably not a contingency requiring an emergency fallback. After all, why waste money on a big four accountant when the outcome is inevitable?

Saturday’s formal vote takes place in the Plaisterers Hall, a modern building that (according to the Worshipful Plaisterers’ website) reflects the grandeur of a bygone era, but in an ultra-modern setting. It is a venue that Knowles no doubt personally approved, and the Plaisterers’ motto, “Let brotherly love continue”, probably appeals to his evangelical zeal.

To help him convey his modern message to the audience, the great man will have a 50-inch plasma screen, an external broadcast feed and rigging hoists for lighting at his disposal. And you can presume that Knowles, a man who once addressed the DLA partner conference to the strains of Eye of the Tiger, written for the film Rocky III, will use the technical wizardry at hand.

Champagne has been ordered for the hundreds of salaried partners who do not even have a vote, but who are expected to turn up to support the tie-up anyway.

Let’s just hope they’re not asked to raise a toast to a hitherto unknown Martian law firm Knowles has rooted out as a merger prospect in order to make DLA truly galactic.