DJ Freeman: the end of the road

On 30 April, DJ Freeman will shut its doors for the last time

In its place will be a niche insurance and litigation firm named Kendall Freeman, while a large proportion of DJ Freeman's property and media practice will have a new home in Olswang's swanky new offices.

The deal with Olswang, which saw it take on 13 partners, 25 other fee-earners and around 15 support staff, was pushed through in the space of just 16 days. But DJ Freeman had been considering such a deal for a number of months.

A strategic review was undertaken by the firm's management last autumn. DJ Freeman's chief executive Laurence Harris told The Lawyer that two key decisions were made. “There wasn't a great deal of synergy between the three areas [insurance, property and media], and the investment that we were able to provide to some areas was limited,” he said.

Consequently, the decision was made to axe the property and media sections, which had been underperforming, and rebrand as a firm focusing largely on insurance and litigation.

DJ Freeman had approached a number of City firms before going to Olswang, and the list that was presented to Olswang's chief executive Jonathan Goldstein was understood to have been significantly longer than the group that ultimately joined.

The departure of the firm's property finance team – revealed on Grapevine, part of the Lawyer News Weekly email, on 5 March – was unrelated to the management decision. “We were very sorry to see them go,” said Harris. He also denied that the recent redundancies within the firm were related to the decision.

In the end, Olswang got a number of big names, including property heavyweights Jonathan Lewis and Graham Barber, and media names Susan Aslan and Tony Leifer. The firm also took on high-profile property lawyer Michael Cassidy, late of Maxwell Batley, as a consultant.

All partners have been released from their partnership obligations. One source estimated that the business that the team would bring with it would be worth more than £8.5m.

The new firm, Kendall Freeman, will have 20 partners, all of whom will be full equity. This will include a couple of associates who look set to be made up. Predicted turnover for the new firm is £18m.

The role of managing partner and senior partner are still up for grabs, although Harris and new name partner David Kendall, who heads the insurance practice, would seem odds-on favourites for the two respective positions.