DWF bolsters real estate group with triple partner hire

DWF has bolstered its London real estate practice with the addition of a three-partner team, including former Lawrence Graham (LG) real estate finance partner Iain Thomas.

Thomas is joined at the firm by former Wragge & Co lawyer Lorraine Reader and Stephen Sumpton who is joining from Stephenson Harwood next month.

It comes after a series of hires for the national real estate practice, including that of Toby Askin, who joined the firm from Wragges last summer as head of the group in London and Birmingham (28 August 2013).

Reader, who specialises in advising landlords on development and investments, advises clients such as Intu plc, the company behind the Manchester-based intu Trafford Centre. Sumption’s clients, meanwhile, include institutional investors, developers, hotels and major corporate occupiers.

The addition of former LG partner Harwood follows the hire of employment partner Helga Breen, who quit LG for DWF less than a month ago (16 January 2014). The moves come weeks after LG’s competition and regulation chief Rosemary Choueka left for Bristows (2 January 2014). 

Thomas, who joined LG from Mayer Brown in 2009, insisted that his move was not linked to the planned merger with Wragge & Co, which is expected to go ahead in May and was voted through by both firms late last year (18 November 2013).

DWF intends to double the size of its London offering over the next three years, picking up an 11-partner team from Greenwoods after the team’s sole client Aviva expressed concern over its decision to merge with defendant insurance firm Plexus Law in May 2013 (11 October 2013).

The firm also recruited a 12-strong three-partner team from Eversheds (9 May 2013) and five additional real estate partners. They included: Askin, Melanie Williams in Birmingham, Richard Outhwaite in Leeds, Lorraine Reader in London, Suzanne Gregson in Manchester and Mitch Brown in Newcastle.

In November last year the firm posted a 92 per cent increase in real estate revenues for the first six-months of 2013/14 from £7m to £13.5m and now account for 15per cent of the firm’s turnover.

LG has seen a number of departures in the last year, including property litigation head Jane Fox-Edwards, who quit to join Allen & Overy in April (12 April 2013), as well as pensions partner Ron Burgess who left for Olswang (21 May 2013) and white collar crime partner Eoin O’Shea who quit for Reed Smith.

The firm announced a sizeable drop in profitability last summer, with average profit per equity partner (PEP) sliding by 14 per cent between 2011/12 and 2012/13 to £260,000 (26 July 2013), while the firm’s latest LLP results reveal an annual property bill is costing the firm £5.1m a year (4 February 2013).

It had initially been in talks about a tie-up with Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW), but those were called off in 2012 (28 June 2012). Sources at the time suggested that issues with LG’s London-headquarters costs were problematic for FFW.

 DWF also raided TLT this week, taking on an equity partner Richard Tall and two associates Joe Cobley and Caroline Urban from its City corporate team (5 February 2014). The team is thought to have generated around 10 per cent of TLT’s approximately £10m London revenue last year.