Firm profile: Dawsons

Lincoln’s Inn Fields-based Dawsons was among the firms to make it into last year’s The Rising 50, the first guide to the 50 largest UK firms outside the top 100 by turnover. Unlike the majority of those firms, however, Dawsons is anticipating that its turnover this year will fall, not rise.

Managing partner

: Mathew Rea
Turnover: £9m
Total number of partners: 18
Total number of lawyers: 40
Key clients: Family Housing Association, Greenwich Hospital, Mountview Estates and RTT Engineering
Main practice area: Private client
Number of offices: One
Location: London

Lincoln’s Inn Fields-based Dawsons was among the firms to make it into last year’s The Rising 50, the first guide to the 50 largest UK firms outside the top 100 by turnover. Unlike the majority of those firms, however, Dawsons is anticipating that its turnover this year will fall, not rise.

The firm is projecting a turnover drop of 5.5 per cent to £8.5m at year-end. This follows a period of reorganisation at Dawsons which saw five partners and four assistants leave the firm for neighbouring rival Hunters. The firm would appear to have endured a turbulent year.

Surprisingly, managing partner Mathew Rea is upbeat about the revenue drop and partner exits. “The drop in turnover is down to the fact that we didn’t have as many people at the firm during the last year,” he explains. “But the kind of private client work that team was doing was more traditional landed and settled estate business, which is less compatible with our new focus.”

In other words, although Rea is too polite to say it, Dawsons is on a push to modernise, and the team handling predominantly old money work no longer fitted. Dawsons is, of course, never going to turn away the lords and the ladies, but its sights are now set on international, entrepreneurial and media-based new money clients and the work they generate.

“These kinds of clients fit well with the broader services we provide,” says Rea. “Corporate, personal tax and family all fit well as services to offer clients who may be selling their businesses, but less so with landed estates.”

There is another reason why Rea is relaxed about the changes at his firm. Average profit per equity partner (PEP) is set to rocket this year. “Last year average profits tumbled to below £200,000. The top of equity was only £230,000,” says Rea. “This year, assuming that we make target, I think average PEP will be around £250,000.”

The exit of fee-earners and the support staff that went with them resulted in a cut in expenditure, which helps the bottom line. “It’s enabled us to invest in a document management system and a customer relationship management system,” says Rea.

The firm has also been hiring. It brought in Neil Morris from Eversheds plus Guy Hurst from Withers last year. These hires followed that of Wynne Thomas, who joined from Berwin Leighton Paisner in January 2003 and who is now senior partner.

But the firm is not on a growth spurt. “We’re committed to the size we are,” says Rea. “We can’t grow rapidly anyway because of the space we’re in, but we’ve still some room to expand. We don’t want a merger.” It would appear that Dawsons is a firm that knows exactly what it wants.

Mathew Rea
Managing partner
Dawsons
Managing partner: Mathew Rea

Turnover: £9m

Total number of partners: 18

Total number of lawyers: 40

Key clients: Family Housing Association, Greenwich Hospital, Mountview Estates and RTT Engineering

Main practice area: Private client

Number of offices: One

Location: London