The Legal Cheek View
As an upstart northern firm that has relatively recently taken grand office space in London's Walkie Talkie Building, DWF attracts its fair share of sniping. Certainly, some poor recent financial performances haven't helped the firm's cause – with last year's 16% drop in profit per equity partner providing plenty of fuel for the critics.
At the same time, it's impossible not to be impressed by DWF's ambition. Under its chief Andrew Leaitherland – who became the youngest managing partner of any major law firm when he took the helm in 2006 aged just 36 – the firm has been on an incredible journey which has seen it absorb a host of rival outfits and go from being a slightly obscure regional player to a national giant which everyone has heard of.
But now what? Handling such expansion is notoriously difficult. If Leaitherland is to be remembered as a great leader in the mould of former DLA Piper boss Nigel Knowles (the man behind perhaps the most incredible law firm growth story in history), he will have to forge a collective identity out of a host of large regional offices which do a lot of higher volume insurance work with a London base that aspires to go head-to-head with the City's finest on corporate and banking work. The firm's first overseas office in Dubai, which it opened in 2015 in a bid to internationalise its real estate practice, must also be integrated into this mix.
Despite the fact that DWF is very much a work in progress, morale among its trainees and junior lawyers is pretty good, with the firm scoring well for peer support and partner approachability. Work/life balance is a particular strong point in London, where regional-ish hours are remunerated at City levels, albeit at the lower end of that spectrum.
Perks vary according to location, with highlights including the firm's 'Friday fridge' (containing free alcohol and nibbles on the last Friday of every month) and, for those in the capital, access to the Walkie Talkie skygarden and stunning views from the building's 32nd floor. More mundanely, the private medical insurance is highlighted as being particularly comprehensive, covering spouses and partners as well as the lawyers themselves.