Scot-shots aim high

New Dundas management team: we’ll simplify and expand the firm

Dundas & Wilson’s managing partner and chairman elections were a critical juncture for the firm following a period of internal disquiet.

Dundas’s failed merger talks with London firm Bircham Dyson Bell shone a light on the fact that partners were unhappy and led to managing partner Donald Shaw and chairman David Hardie stepping down.

New managing partners Caryn Penley and Allan Wernham are keen to get Dundas back on track.

“It’s not been an easy period, but the elections drew a line under that,” said Wernham.

Penley and Wernham – who will continue to fee-earn in their new roles – have been managing the firm since March on an interim basis but were properly elected on 20 June (as was IT partner Laurence Ward, who replaces Hardie as chairman) when partners gathered at Dundas’s Glasgow office.

“Our pitch was that we wanted to see the partnership deliver on what it wants to do by being more engaged with each other and less focused on fancy structures – more of a ’pared back’ approach,” said Wernham, who added that at Dundas there had been a tendency to create too many hierarchies. “We just want to have our practice areas, clients and partners,” he said.

Another strand of the pair’s plans is growth. Penley is keen to expand in corporate as well as oil and gas work using the firm’s new Aberdeen offices as a jumping-off point.

Wernham admitted that the Pinsent Masons-McGrigors merger had brought consolidation to the forefront of partners’ minds, but added: “We see our strategy as being built around this firm and we’re not seeking a merger partner at present, although we’re not saying we wouldn’t think about it in the future.”

Wernham added that he recently tapped up new partner Andrew Walker, who joined from CMS Cameron McKenna, for his first impressions on Dundas.

“He said what I’d been feeling – that we’ve got a really good bunch of people here who want to make the firm succeed,” said Wernham. “I think we have the raw materials.”