Review of the year 2003: DLA pushes into Europe

Not content with a 15 per cent increase in turnover, in 2003 the unstoppable DLA went on the march across Europe and Asia, gaining more than 10 new offices.

The European merger spree started in September, when the firm merged with Austrian-based outfit Weiss-Tessbach. The move gave DLA offices in Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, Salzburg, Sarajevo, Vienna and Zagreb in one fell swoop.

Just a month later it nabbed Coudert Brothers’ Milan office and severed ties with former member of the DLA group De Berti Jacchia Franchini Forlani.

Then, on 8 December, The Lawyer reported that DLA was continuing its relentless spread after voting through a merger with its Netherlands ally SchutGrosheide, giving it another two offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and an extra annual turnover of an estimated £21m.

But the expansion did not stop with mergers. In October, German best friend Görg made a three-partner raid on Ernst & Young’s German law firm Luther Menold, taking a team of lawyers to establish a Hamburg base.

Asia was no different. Back in May, the firm took on 12 lawyers from the Singapore member of its international alliance J Koh & Co, giving it a presence in Thailand for the first time. As revealed by The Lawyer (22 May), a team of seven Singapore lawyers relinquished their local practising certificates to join the DLA juggernaut; and in Thailand the firm acquired the whole of J Koh’s five-lawyer Bangkok office.

Given the momentum, it came as no surprise when in late September the firm announced that Nigel Knowles was to continue his reign as managing partner. Whether profits next year will escape unscathed from such relentless expansion remains to be seen, but to quote The Lawyer 100: “As ever with DLA, do not bet against it.”