Right to Reply

I am writing in respect of the coverage in relation to the recent Board elections at Davies Arnold Cooper (The Lawyer, 27 March).

As the person who is responsible for having ended what you describe in your editorial column as Nick Sinfield’s “reign of terror”, I believe I am well placed to comment on the substance of what you have said. Putting it shortly, the editorial portrays a situation which is as far from reality as it is possible to be.

In January 1999 the equity partners of this practice voted on a series of measures designed to re-focus the firm onto its core strengths and grow its profitability. To implement the measures it was decided by the equity partners that a small management committee consisting of Nick Sinfield, managing partner David Hertzell and finance director Andrew Lyburn should be set up and empowered to do what was required. The management committee was established on a 12 month remit, was at all times answerable to the equity partners and met regularly throughout with them so that they could be updated on developments and comment if they so wished on any steps which were being taken.

As a result of the measures implemented by the management committee there were a number of initial redundancies particularly in our Manchester office. Since then, some partners and staff have chosen to move to other firms. In some cases these moves were related to the re-focusing of the practice, in others they were not. No one regretted more than the equity partners of this practice the necessary redundancies and the undoubted pain it caused to those affected. As one who was involved throughout I am however satisfied that the steps that were taken, drastic as they were, were needed to protect the interests of the partners and the vast majority of the staff who have remained with the firm. In answer to the question posed in the headline to the editorial, DAC has recovered and will go from strength to strength. This situation is in large measure attributable to the part played over the last year by Nick Sinfield in driving the firm’s business forward and implementing the matters agreed by the partnership.

As I hope you will now understand there is no basis for the suggestion that a “reign of terror” existed at DAC. There is also no basis for saying that the firm’s image is “irreparably damaged” and left without “an ounce of credibility within the profession”. Your attack on this firm and in particular the inexplicable personal nature of your attack on Nick Sinfield is unfair and unwarranted and thus reprehensible.

The facts of the situation are such that it is quite impossible for you to justify these allegations. This letter is intended to put the record straight. You should be aware that Nick has received innumerable messages of support from both within and outside the firm including many from those who left this practice within the last 12 months. There is a sense of outrage at the uncalled for personal attack upon him.

I would also like to take the opportunity of dealing with some factual inaccuracies contained within the article which appears on the front page of the publication. There have not at any stage been merger discussions between this firm and Berrymans Lace Mawer. The suggestion that such discussions began in July and were abandoned in August of 1999 is simply wrong. Secondly, it was the Manchester construction team consisting of one partner and two assistants who went to Hammond Suddards. The London construction team which constitutes the bulk of the firm’s practice in this area has remained with the firm.

Daniel Gowan, executive partner, Davies Arnold Cooper