DWF to lock Cobbetts partners in for two years

The Cobbetts partners who transferred to DWF when the firm went into administration at the end of January (30 January 2012) are to be locked in for two years at the firm.

Andrew Leaitherland
Andrew Leaitherland

As well as being locked in the partners will not be considered for the equity partnership for at least another year. Meanwhile, Cobbetts former managing partner Nick Carr and senior partner Stephen Benson have not been given a seat on the firm’s management board.

However at least five senior ex-Cobbetts partners in Manchester and Leeds are understood to be in the process of leaving DWF, across a range of practice areas including corporate, litigation and property. Phone calls to the group on Friday afternoon went straight through to voicemail.

Around 400 partners and directors were gathered in Liverpool’s Echo arena on Friday (1 March) as DWF held its first firm-wide conference since rescuing fellow Manchester firm Cobbetts in a pre-pack administration deal on 6 February (6 February 2012). DWF has been on the acquisition trail for a little more than a year, in which time it has completed five mergers.

In addition to the Cobbetts deal, DWF bolted on professional indemnity firm Fishburns on 1 February 2012 (18 January 2012) and Scottish firm Biggart Baillie on 1 July (7 June 2012), as well as swallowing up insurance firm Buller Jeffries on 1 May (2 April 2012).

According to Leaitherland the firm used the conference to discuss integration and help old and new partners get to know each other.

Leaitherland confirmed that Cobbetts partners joining DWF as part of the rescue deal have signed a two-year lock-in contract. “Inevitably there’s a lock-in period,” he explained. “If you’re paying over £3m for a business you have to make sure you keep the value.

“But if it was the case that we were just forcing people to stay then I’d be doing my job wrong. You want people to be at the firm because they want to be there, not because they have to be there.”

DWF is also still considering whether to acquire Cobbetts’ international network, which includes associations in Egypt and Saudi Arabia (31 January 2013), saying that DWF “has the ability to take that over”.