DWF acquires Fishburns as its hunt for a second Scotland merger continues

DWF has acquired professional indemnity practice Fishburns as the North West firm continues to seek out another bolt-on in Scotland.

Andrew Leaitherland
Andrew Leaitherland

DWF and Fishburns will merge on 1 February, gifting DWF a 22-partner practice with a niche insurance practice and offices across Bristol, Dublin and London. Fishburns’ offices will trade as DWF Fishburns to begin with, but will later drop the Fishburns part of the name.

DWF managing partner Andrew Leaitherland said his firm was bolting on Fishburns “lock stock and barrel” and did not foresee any redundancies in the integration. Fishburns senior partner Antony March will join DWF’s board and will lead the firm’s nationwide professional indemnity practice. Previously, the professional indemnity practice had been a part of commercial insurance head Kieran Walshe’s remit. Fishburns chairman Peter Campion will lead DWF’s international committee.

In a statement Marsh said: “Merging with DWF provides Fishburns with a growth platform that will enable us to build on our already strong professional indemnity offering whilst at the same time providing a wider range of services to our clients.”

For DWF’s part, Leaitherland said the merger makes the firm strong in professional indemnity – a practice that was previously weak at the firm.

News of the merger comes amid speculation about DWF’s hunt for another merger target in Scotland. DWF merged with Scotland’s Biggart Baillie on 1 July 2012 (7 June 2012) and Leaitherland told trainees at DWF in September that he was interested in shoring up the firm’s insurance practice in Scotland for another merger (24 September 2012).

Since then, a possible target has been named, with sources in the Scottish legal market saying that 16-partner HBM Sayers, which has offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, has been in talks with DWF about a possible tie-up. Leaitherland confirmed that DWF was interested in growing north of the border and that he was in talks with as many as three firms, but that no deal had been agreed.

HBM Sayers did not respond in time to comment.