Shock of the new for Davenport

How Davenport Lyons was swallowed up by a firm half its size

The mood at Davenport Lyons was as low as it could be.

Staff were told at the end of last month that the firm was going into administration. Those offered a job – mostly partners – were called one by one into a meeting with the firm’s acquiror, Gordon Dadds. 

By the end of the day, those not called were left in the dark. There are about 50 people in this group, mostly support staff and associates. According to sources it was this bracket – primarily the junior end – that had long been kept out the loop, despite Gordon Dadds and Davenport Lyons starting to talk back in February.

For everyone but the equity partners, the situation has been hazy. Even the firm’s PR team had to double check when contacted by The Lawyer that its client had gone into administration. This is probably excusable, given that the firm’s CEO appeared remarkably bullish in March.

“The only reason we’d go into administration is if it was planned as part of a deal with a much larger firm,” CEO Richard Williams told The Lawyer. “There is no creditor, lender or landlord putting pressure on us.”

It may come as a surprise, then, that in the end Davenport Lyons was acquired by a firm half its size.

Around 30 Davenport partners (all but four) have moved over to eight-partner Gordon Dadds, each signing a long-term incentive plan that will become effective next January. The details, as yet unknown, are likely to be the smaller firm’s carrot for any of those with a wandering eye. 

Davenport’s six trainees, part of a reduced intake, have also transferred over, along with about 50 other staff members. The rest are understood to be facing a redundancy consultation.

Mayfair-based Gordon Dadds is no stranger to the pre-pack deal, having acquired London-based Harris Cartier (with PI firm Neil Hudgell) after it went into administration last October.

Last month it opened an office in Cardiff, with a £200,000 investment backed by the Welsh government to create 14 jobs. 

Now the firm has an eye on integration. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.