DWF’s ever-changing moods

Now it is a bigshot firm, the nature of DWF’s trainees has to change 

When law firms merge, two assurances are always trotted out – the first is that there will be better service for clients, the second that the cultures were similar anyway and the ethos of both will remain.

But when a firm goes through as many mergers as DWF, can the culture really remain the same? 

DWF isn’t quite Trigger’s broom, which Only Fools and Horses fans will recall had 17 new heads and 14 new handles over its life. But it has had so many bolt-ons that the firm it used to be is becoming increasingly hard to detect. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in its trainee intake. In 2007 seven trainees qualified into the utopia that was the pre-recession legal market. By 2013 DWF had no fewer than 46 final-seaters and nearly 100 trainees in total – a 411 per cent rise in six years. But the biggest leap came in 2013, with the acquisition of Cobbetts, Biggart Baillie, Buller Jeffries and Crutes, all of which brought trainees.

Future DWF trainees will get the benefits of working in a big firm, but culturally the number coming in will accelerate change.

And incomers, having applied to a national business based in the Walkie Talkie, will have different expectations from the 2007ers who sought out a North West outfit.

Perhaps the biggest difference will be apparent come qualification. Pre-2013, DWF had one of the best retention records in the UK. Between 2002 and 2012, it let go of 11 out of 131 trainees. In 2013 it lost 14 out of 46. That’s the big league.

The challenge is to recruit trainees who share the vision of the firm as it is, rather than as it used to be.