The Lawyer UK 200 Rank15

Gowling WLG was formed in 2016 by the first-ever Canadian-led transatlantic merger. Gowlings was the Canadian half of the deal; on the British side was Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, which itself was the product of an unusual occurrence – a Birmingham firm taking over a London one. Wragge & Co was one of the UK’s best-respected regional independents. It put on a major growth spurt around the turn of the millennium, almost doubling in size between 2000 and 2003,

Gowling WLG was formed in 2016 by the first-ever Canadian-led transatlantic merger. Gowlings was the Canadian half of the deal; on the British side was Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, which itself was the product of an unusual occurrence – a Birmingham firm taking over a London one.

Wragge & Co was one of the UK’s best-respected regional independents. It put on a major growth spurt around the turn of the millennium, almost doubling in size between 2000 and 2003, giving it undisputed pre-eminence in the Birmingham market. The firm also had a London office focused mostly on IP matters. Wragge & Co made a big deal of its culture, regularly featuring in ‘best-place-to-work’ rankings and running a grad recruitment campaign in the mid-2000s promising that trainees could ask management anything, “even for more sugar”, as the brochure depicted then-senior partner Quentin Poole making the tea.

Lawrence Graham was a classic London mid-sizer, heavy on real estate and corporate work. For many years it was resident on The Strand but in 2007 it moved to the More London complex. At roughly the same time it went in for a rebrand and started to call itself LG. In hindsight, both decisions were perhaps ill-judged. While the firm’s old offices were fairly decrepit, it moved into expensive new premises only a year before the financial crisis hit. The new rent was a crippling £1.5m a year. Meanwhile, taking the same name as a popular electronics company was probably not a brilliant idea from a branding point of view. It reverted to its old name in fairly short order.

Lawrence Graham’s biggest problem, however, was a distinct case of mid-marketitis and it found itself increasingly squeezed.  In 2011/12 turnover fell from £58m to £56m. It fell to £51.8m the following year, while PEP slid by 14 per cent from £303,000 to £260,000. The firm first spoke to Wragges in 2009 but it wasn’t until 2013 that the merger went through.

The subsequent merger with Canadian firm Gowlings in 2016 was a surprise. It created a £400m firm with over 1,400 legal professionals across 18 cities. The new firm declared its aim to focus on four key sectors – advanced manufacturing; energy and natural resources; technology; and life sciences – and its plans to continue growing. Chairman Andrew Witts told The Lawyer at the time of the merger: “We’re very interested in looking in Germany and in South East Asia. In fact, going back to the Wragge & Co and Lawrence Graham merger, a Germany combination was one of the strategic objectives. That hasn’t changed as a result of the combination with Gowlings.”

TRAINING CONTRACTS

What is the trainee salary at Gowling WLG?

1st year trainee: £40,000

2nd year trainee: £43,000

What is the NQ salary at Gowling WLG?

NQ: £65,000