Ernst & Young hunt for legal head lands Dentons partner

Ernst & Young's year-long search for a leading lawyer to head its move into legal services has finally ended with the recruitment of Denton Hall's head of corporate Andrew Daws.

However, at 54, Daws is being given the role of full-time consultant to Ernst &Young and is not certain to head any legal practice the firm might develop.

The Big Six accountancy firm has been planning to move into the provision of legal services for at least two years but has had difficulty finding the right people. It had headhunters present senior partner Nick Land with a shortlist of City lawyers with managerial experience at the end of last year.

Daws, a leading corporate lawyer and a partner at Dentons for 27 years – 16 of which were at management board level – stressed that he was taking up his new role on 1 November with an open mind about whether to form an alliance with an existing firm or start one from scratch.

“My understanding is that all options are open. A lot depends on when the Law Society changes the rules on MDPs. The feeling is that it's a question of when rather than if.”

But Land, who last December told The Lawyer that he would prefer to start up his own firm, appears to have changed his mind and has now said that he favours creating an alliance with an existing top 20 firm to save time and money.

Discussions begun last year with half a dozen law firms, he said, were now “marginally more definitive” but a long way from being finalised.

Daws said he had decided to leave Dentons because he had “three or four years left” of his career and wanted to play more of a strategic, managerial role. “After a time you find yourself doing the same sort of work again and again – the transactions may be bigger, you may be running a bigger team but at the end of the day one deal is rather similar to another.”

He added that had the tripartite merger with Cameron Markby Hewitt and McKenna & Co gone ahead, he would probably have stayed.

Although Dentons had instituted the talks, one of the firm's eight-strong board had voted against it, leaving the other two firms to merge without them.

“If the merger had gone forward I would have had my hands pretty full in sorting it out. That task wasn't there,” he explained.

Daws said that if and when an Ernst &Young London law firm had been created, he would probably be given a larger role overseeing the development of Ernst &Young's international law firms.