Top-25 practice DWF is considering whether to become by far the largest law firm to list on the London Stock Exchange, it emerged today.
The move would galvanise interest in law firms going public, and based on valuations of those that have made the move to date, the firm would be valued at about £600m, although some reports have put it at £1bn.
There are currently four law firms on the market – Gateley, Gordon Dadds, Keystone Law and Rosenblatt – with Knights set to become the fifth.
The Lawyer lists DWF as the 23rd biggest law firm in the country, with revenues in 2017 of £201m. Profits in its last couple of financial years have been around the £45m mark.
In a statement released today, DWF said: “To enable us to deliver on our strategy and for us to better serve our clients through an increasingly international and differentiated offering, we have plans to increase our investment in information technology and Connected Services.”
Connected Services is a standalone company that the firm has described as forming “an umbrella over a range of complementary specialist business solutions, as well as consultative services and products, that sit alongside DWF’s core legal offering”.
The statement continued: “The current corporate structure of our business continues to work very well and has enabled us to deliver our key business objectives with record growth this year – but as a business which is committed to ‘doings things differently’ it is also important to consider alternative structures which can set us apart from other legal businesses.
“To that end, we have been considering a number of strategic options for our business, including the possibility of an IPO on the London Stock Exchange.
“If we were to proceed with an IPO, we believe that it would enable us to achieve our strategic objectives more quickly, while also enhancing our ability to attract and retain the best talent and to incentivise our people by aligning them through offering ownership within the business.
“We are focused on an IPO, however, a number of options are available to us, and we can still continue to build on our success to date, with the support of our clients, under our current structure. For the time being, it is very much business as usual.”
Davies Wallis & Co opened in 1977 in Liverpool, and in 1990 became Davies Wallis Foyster after a merger.
The name changed to DWF in 2007 as it began to embark on mergers and international expansion. From a business at that time with three offices in the north-west of England, 800 staff and a turnover of £40m, it now has nearly 3,000 staff in 31 offices around the world.
They operate in eight core sectors: energy and industrials, financial services, insurance, public sector, real estate, technology, transport, and retail, food and hospitality.
DWF acts for 28 of the FTSE 100 and clients include Adidas, Aviva, DHL, RBS, RSA, Serco, Telefonica, Whitbread and Zurich.
DWF also has several group companies within Connected Services, covering health and safety, advocacy, costs, claims management, forensic accountancy, loss adjustment, and research and development.
Last year, the costs and advocacy businesses obtained their own alternative business structure licenses, allowing them to operate as separate companies with their own clients.
The firm’s 2016/17 annual review said: “We live by the saying ‘what we did six months ago is no longer good enough’. We are disrupting the legal market and creating something completely different. We are making clients feel from the word go that it is a completely different experience dealing with DWF.”
We have approached DWF for comment.