DLA sweats it out in Asia Pacific

Ruthlessness rules at DLA in Singapore, rubbing up against more subtle local ways

DLA Piper is yet to make its fortune in Singapore after losing out on the city-state’s Qualifying Foreign Legal Practice (QFLP) licence for the second time in February.

It has seen the exit of three partners in recent months, most recently global arbitration co-chair Justyn Jagger followed former office heads Martin David and Matthew Glynn out of the door. Those in the know reckons the trend extends to associates, with around 10 thought to have left in recent months.

The trend goes back further. When David joined the firm in 2008 he stepped into a managerial role in an office that had nine partners. Since then it has contracted to five, four of whom joined the office or became a partner after 2011.

Sources close to the firm reckon that the change of regional leadership has prompted the churn. The promotion of partner Bob Charlton to Asia Pacific head has injected a bit of pressure on partner performance.

“The new management has put a lot more pressure and much tougher measures on performance management and KPI analysis,” claimed one source. “Partners who brought in millions of dollars are still not good enough for the London headquarters.”

Those on the ground suggest that lateral hires are too reliant on the DLA network in a firm where partners are urged to get on or quit.

Of course it isn’t all doom and gloom for the world’s largest firm, but convincing the local market that its cut throat culture is best may take some work.