As a global legal business, we see our purpose as transforming legal services through our people for our clients. Led by Managing Partner and CEO Andrew Leaitherland, we have over 2,700 people delivering services and solutions that go beyond expectations.


We connect on a global scale, sharing our knowledge and technical expertise to identify and anticipate challenges for clients within their sectors, working with a range of FTSE 100 multinational household names to private individuals, from both the public and private sector.

We engage our people to be part of our journey. Building business relationships that inspire trust and confidence across all levels of our business, means we deliver an exceptional client experience.

We have been named by the Financial Times as one of Europe’s most innovative legal advisers, known for doing things differently and going beyond expectations for our clients and our people.

DWF at a Glance

Our Journey

We’re client-led and as demand grew we didn’t wait around. Joining our clients on their growth journey has led us to become a global legal business, connecting expert services with innovative thinkers.

1977 Jim Davies and Guy Wallis founded Liverpool-based Law Firm Davies Wallis & Co. specialising in Real Estate and Litigation.  

1980 Our business expanded to provide Corporate and Commercial legal services.  

1985 Service line expansion continued with the launch of our Employment and Pensions team.

1988 We merged with Dodd Ashcroft and saw the inception of our now market-leading Insurance offering.  

1990 We merged with Foysters to become Davies Wallis Foyster, and Private Client and Family services became available to all clients.  

1992 Our service line expansion continued with the launch of our Finance and Restructuring team.

2007 We merged with Leeds- based Ricksons, Davies Wallis Foyster officially became DWF LLP.  

2011 We aligned ourselves with our clients’ businesses by redefining sector expertise within DWF, creating teams across practice areas and offices.  

2012 We merged with Crutes, Buller Jeffries and Biggart Baillie, further expanding our geographic footprint.

2013 We merged with Fishburns and Cobbetts and were joined by a 47-strong team from Greenwoods/Parabis, strengthening our Insurance and Commercial services offering.  

2014 We opened our flagship London office at 20 Fenchurch Street.  

2015 We opened offices in Dubai and Brussels, merged with niche market-leading insurance practice Watmores, launched our innovation business and The DWF Charitable Foundation.

2016 We merged with German international commercial Law Firm BridgehouseLaw, with offices in Munich and Cologne, and strengthened our Insurance expertise by merging with Fox Hartley in Bristol and C&H Jefferson in Belfast.  

2017 Our global headcount reaches over 2,700 people. We acquired Heenan Paris to launch in France, acquired Triton Global to stretch our footprint over to AustraliaCanada and the USA whilst further deepening our global Insurance practice.

We opened our Berlin office to strengthen our Financial Services, Real Estate and Corporate M&A service lines and continued to develop our international capabilities by opening DWF offices in BrisbaneMelbourneMilan and Singapore.

Chairman's Report

Alan Benzie

The post-Brexit landscape

It has undoubtedly been another tough year economically, with the impact of Brexit taking its toll on businesses.

Like others, we have felt the pressure of the referendum, which has led to a slowdown in our commercial services business, particularly in real estate and, to some extent, corporate transactions. Above all, Brexit has brought uncertainty, and that continued uncertainty has arrested growth in a lot of areas.

We coped well with the challenges presented by the uncertainty in the economy during the early months of the financial year indeed, our ability to adapt to these challenges lead us to a marked improvement in the second half of the year.

Engaging people and clients

Our strategy of innovation and doing things differently is paying dividends, as we have continued our lateral hire programme and secured some excellent client wins both within the UK and internationally.

We’ve also made some great steps towards further embedding people engagement and values and have introduced temperature-checking for the first time. This has been championed by our Engaging People Executive and follows the delivery of our first People Engagement Survey last year, the results of which were shared with all our people. This year we have continued to check in with our people and ensured that the action plans we created for each part of our business to address areas of concern were being implemented.

Removing the mystique of legal services

This year we have experienced the continued changing expectations and attitudes of our clients. Clients are ever increasingly more sophisticated in the expectations of their professional advisers. This is not only driven by a need for cost-savings but also clients’ desire for more sophisticated management reporting of the process and progress of their legal matters and their need for transparency in how we deliver. This has enhanced our commitment to doing things differently to achieve comprehensive services for them.

Expansion trail

We also continued our strategic expansion this year, with the acquisition of C&H Jefferson in Belfast and Fox Hartley in Bristol, along with the launch of our inaugural French office in Paris. We also acquired Triton Global, which was a standout development of the year. It was a great opportunity to preserve the innovative Triton business and allowed us to expand our legal professional indemnity offering, embolden our claims handling capabilities and, importantly, gave us new offices in Australia, Canada and the USA.

We also were able to acquire Triton’s technology subsidiary, which has enabled us to provide a more comprehensive range of software solutions for our clients. Coupled with the acquisition of Triton’s claims handling business, we were able to amalgamate these additional services into our growing Connected Services offering. It has been a genuinely holistic partnership that has strengthened what we already had in place.

Although the technical integration of various mergers has been difficult at times, we have really become more astute and responsive to the needs of those joining our business. This to a large extent has been achieved by all our people, but in particular a number of our central services teams.

Reflecting on a decade

I joined DWF as Chairman in 2007, when the business had three offices across the North West of England, with circa 800 employees and turnover in the region of £40m. Ten years on, we will see turnover well in excess of £200m next year, with 11 offices within the UK, 14 international offices and over 2,700 people globally. This has been achieved through hard work, commitment and unstinted professionalism. There has also been, collectively, a great willingness to listen to our clients and an unwavering ambition to fulfil their commercial needs – coupled with a big dose of innovation and a sprinkling of good luck!

I am very proud to be associated with DWF, all its partners and its people, and particularly the charismatic Andrew Leaitherland. What better time to hand over the reins and to whom better than Sir Nigel Knowles. I wish them all good fortune and believe I am leaving the role in excellent hands. I look forward to working with them for another year as a non-Executive Board Member.

CEO Review

Andrew Leaitherland

Strategic Review

Remaining true to our purpose is our strategic imperative; it underpins and drives all that we do. Our strategy reflects our purpose and has been very clearly mapped out: to meet our clients’ demands wherever they are in the world, and uniquely, to be able to offer our clients a completely integrated platform that transforms legal solutions and blends legal and non-legal services to meet and solve their business challenges.

DWF is on an exciting journey and the business evolved significantly during 16/17, making significant progress against our strategy. The year was characterised by continued expansion both in the UK through our Commercial Services and Insurance divisions as well an internationally with an ambitious growth agenda.

Our acquisition of Triton, gave us offices in Chicago, Toronto and Sydney and with its focus on claims and loss adjusting, we also crucially laid the groundwork for building our non-legal services offering, Connected Services.

Our core strategic themes

Across all four Divisions – Commercial, Insurance, International and Connected Services our strong focus continues to be on the three elements of our strategy – understanding our clients' and their very individual needs; engaging our people to ensure they feel and become part of our journey; delivering for our clients through our people by doing things differently. We have continued to make further progress in each of these areas throughout the year.

1. Understanding our clients

Collaborating closely with our clients is the key to all that we do. This allows us to understand our client's commercial objectives and to create bespoke solutions enabling our clients to achieve and deliver their business targets. Key to this strategy is the use of technology, where we have become market leaders in the use of client tailored technology, including creating and developing bespoke solutions and using data as an opportunity to inform better decisions.

2. Engaging our people

Our people are at the heart of everything we do and achieve. We continue to connect internally and externally and minimise our negative impacts on society whilst maximising our positive impacts though CSR and the DWF Foundation, enabling our people to be catalysts for change for our clients and for our business.

3. Doing things differently

To do things differently we think differently. Across our teams this has always been our stock-in-trade. From the word go, we make clients feel that it is a completely different experience when working with DWF.

Throughout the year we have continued to focus on how we can innovate our services, identifying and implementing efficiency changes, expanding what we offer clients and embracing continuous improvement throughout each Division. We have anticipated and responded quickly to areas of disruption, by looking at completely new models and increasingly the digitisation of our services.

Strategic Progress

Our purpose is to transform legal services, through our people for our clients. To do that we set a very clear strategy in 2014
Click here to read more.

Our International Growth Story

FY 16/17

We are always looking at strategic opportunities for growth that will enhance our legal capability in key sectors and allow us to offer our clients advantages in terms of resource, reach and multi-jurisdiction expertise. Our international expansion is driven by client need.

Belfast

On 1 December 2016, DWF merged with C&H Jefferson, one of the largest legal practices in Northern Ireland and recognised as a leader in the Belfast market. The Firm brought over 100 years’ experience in delivering specialist legal services to a diverse range of clients across Northern Ireland.

“As our international client base continued to grow, we looked at how we could best adapt in order to meet their changing needs. DWF was a very strong fit for us in terms of its culture and approach to legal services, and through the merger we have been able to create new opportunities for our clients with the benefit of DWF’s expansive national footprint, service efficiencies and growing international remit.”

Ken Rutherford, Executive Partner in Belfast.

Dublin

Our Dublin office has seen significant investment and growth this year and now offers full service and capability from leading lawyers, with a focus on Real Estate, Banking, Litigation, Corporate and Energy/Infrastructure.

“The Dublin office has made several key appointments over the year and we have launched a dedicated Real Estate practice to support clients in the region and ensure the team is well-equipped to take advantage of the growing opportunities as a result of Brexit and Ireland’s fast-growing economy.”

Ross Little, Executive Partner in Dublin.

Paris

DWF added a Paris office on 1 January 2017 by merging with Heenan Paris, a Paris-based Firm with a similarly international outlook. Partners Jean-François Mercadier, Ali Boroumand, Pascale Gallien and Anne-Sylvie Vassenaix-Paxton joined DWF, and in the first few months since opening we have recruited several more new partners into core service lines as we continue to target growth opportunities.

“We are particularly happy to contribute to the development of an international platform whose ambition is to be present in key financial centres and with a focus on key growth markets such as Africa to the benefit of our clients.”

Jean-François Mercadier, Managing Partner of DWF France.

Berlin

DWF opened an office in Berlin in April 2017 in order to strengthen its Financial services, Real Estate and Corporate/M&A service lines and continue building its European presence.

“Having spent the last year focusing on the strategic growth of our Cologne and Munich offices, including the development of a strong technology sector practice, DWF is in a good position to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the Berlin market. The city has become the digitilisation capital of Germany, with a thriving Fintech and international start-up business scene that is a natural fit for our expertise and will be key as we build our German and international client base.”

Michael Falter, Managing Partner of DWF Germany.

Dubai

Since entering the Dubai market as a greenfield start-up at the beginning of 2015, DWF in Dubai is now recognised as one of the UAE’s most innovative and fastest-growing legal advisers.

“Since the launch of DWF Middle East in 2015, we have experienced consistent growth and continue to attract key senior talent, which enables us to build our capability in the region and deliver more specialist services to local and firm-wide clients. Our new partners have brought a huge wealth of knowledge which complement the team’s ability to deliver high-value work to clients.”

Stefan Paciorek, CEO-International Division.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

In FY 16/17, we significantly strengthened our Middle East presence with the launch of an exclusive association with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Firm Harasani & Alkhamees, a dynamic Law Firm known for high levels of client service. Led by Dr Hamid Harasani and Dr Ahmad Alkhamees, and based in offices in Riyadh and Jeddah, the Firm focus on Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Corporate, Construction, Family and Private Client and Employment for regional and international clients.

“Harasani & Alkhamees and DWF place the same emphasis on being client-focused and delivering a top-class legal service. We are impressed by DWF’s state-of-the-art premises, the diversity of their legal offerings, their wealth of experience, their client-centric approach, and their ability to deliver a seamless service across different countries. We are excited by our newly formed association and are confident that this will be positively received by the Saudi legal services market.”

Dr Hamid Harasani, Co-founding Partner of Harasani & Alkhamees.

Future Plans

Our international strategy anticipates looking in an eastward direction from Europe and at Singapore in particular. Since the end of FY 16/17 we have opened an office in Singapore, that launched in August 2017, which is the key hub for the ASEAN region and one in which most of our key clients are already active.

CSR

The way we do business is based on our values and reflects the behaviours that we want to be known for. We run our business with integrity and want our culture and values to be at the heart of everything we do, recognising that our people not only want a great place to work, but take pride in being part of a principled business.

As we build our international presence, our values and culture are being influenced by a much broader range of factors than ever before, including modern slavery and human rights. DWF is proud to support the UN Global Compact and its business principles covering human rights, employment standards, environment and anti-corruption.

It is also our ambition to better use our expertise and motivation to align the way we do business to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Safeguarding our long-term future is about profit with purpose, recognising the more successful we become, the greater impact we can have as a force for good.

The most successful businesses invest heavily in the development of their people and culture. Within this scenario, colleague advocacy and a strong and responsible brand will continue to be critical market differentiators for DWF.

Without thriving communities and talented people our business won’t be sustainable, so we have a responsibility to contribute to community prosperity by innovating, learning and improving.

We believe in the power of our people to make a difference by giving their time and talent to help those in need and being a catalyst for change.

Volunteering and fundraising have long been a part of the culture at DWF and by continuing to focus our efforts on education, employability, health and well-being and homelessness, we can make a material difference to the communities in which we live and work.

Continuing to evolve our response to CSR in this way demonstrates a strong, well-informed management attitude that is alert and responsive to the challenges and opportunities of doing business in a global context. We have worked hard to create a blueprint for responsible business that will help protect DWF for the future.

Social value and achievements

Our focus for community investment is measured through take up of volunteering opportunities and feedback via regular dialogue with our local CSR teams and our People Engagement Survey. These engagements help to keep our CSR programme focused on the social issues which matter the most to our people and the communities in which we live and work.

How we add social value

  • We identify the social issues most relevant to our business and most pressing to the communities we work with.
  • We work in partnership with our communities, leveraging our combined expertise for mutual benefit.
  • We plan and manage our community investment using the most appropriate resources to deliver against our targets.
  • We encourage and engage our people, clients and suppliers to support our community programmes.
  • We measure and evaluate the difference our investment has in the community and on our business, and strive for continuous improvement.

Why we do it

  • To reduce unemployment and improve opportunities for those often furthest from employment, changing perceptions amongst employers; of talent and where it is sourced.
  • To create a lasting skills legacy for local people through the training they receive.
  • To help build more resilient communities through a focus on skills development, aspiration, confidence and well-being.
  • To create economic, educational, social and cultural opportunities that provide individuals with connections outside their communities to help break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

How we do it

  • Community partnerships including Business in the Community and Benefacto
  • 5 Star Futures – our flagship education programme
  • DWF Charitable Foundation
  • Apprenticeships
  • Volunteering and Mentoring
  • People engagement
  • Targeted investment
  • Social Impact – CSR measurement tool
  • Benchmarking and Awards

Clients

Our clients range from FTSE 100 multinational household names to private individuals, from both the public and private sector. Our client base spans both UK and international markets.

We create value for our clients by understanding their business and their markets and providing smart, insightful legal advice and services which are aligned to their commercial reality.

People

Our people include everyone who has a part to play in delivering client service excellence on behalf of DWF to our clients.

We create value for our people by offering fulfilling and rewarding careers and continuing to invest in their development and care about their wellbeing.

Communities

Our communities include those in which we live and work. Those that touch the lives of our people day by day.

We create value for our communities by recognising and acting upon the positive impact we can have on current and future generations.

At DWF, we live and breathe our values through our day-to-day actions and behaviours. The values we share help to define and reinforce our culture and the way we do things. Our values underpin not only our culture, but they also set the future course that we want to take as a business.

The launch of the DWF Foundation in November 2015 marked a significant step in our journey to develop a culture of contribution.

One of DWF’s values is the belief that we are ‘better together’ and it is our opportunity for all our people to work together to create something special.

It is also something that was increasingly asked for by our clients, and the Foundation aligns to our clients’ interests.

As a registered charity, the DWF Foundation was launched with the sole aim of providing funds, resources and support to help local communities achieve their full potential with a focus on education, employability, health and well-being and homelessness.

Case Study: Working with the Wood Street Mission

Manchester Children’s charity, Wood Street Mission, used their DWF Foundation grant for their SmartStart initiative, which helps to alleviate the effects of poverty on local children and their families.

Roseanne Sweeney, Chief Executive of Wood Street Mission children’s charity, said: “This year, thanks to the generosity of our supporters including DWF, we were able to kit out over 2,300 children in smart new uniforms for the start of the school year and distribute over £200,000 of school kit to local families.”

Governance

Good corporate governance enables us to create sustainable value for the benefit of our clients, our people and the communities in which we live and work.

Our Risk Management and Governance strategy follows the execution of the wider business strategy, so we can anticipate and identify the regulatory outcomes and address them accordingly to ensure compliance.

To achieve this we put policies in place which provide mandatory ways of working, backed by the DWF values which provide a sense of common direction for our people and guidelines for their day-to-day behaviour.

Those policies are monitored and tested by an audit team who regularly undertake assessments to ensure compliance.

Our changing approach

Over the last 12 months, we have seen further growth and diversification. Risk Management has to be seen as a collaborative function across the business. As the international footprint has grown, so has the purpose of the function which includes enhancing the governance across the business. International compliance has become ever more important and has includes advising on local regulations, embedding diversity and introducing appropriate systems for business assurance across the various jurisdictions.

This year saw the addition of an International Compliance Officer to the team.

Financial Review

Chris Stefani

Planning for growth

A year of two halves in the UK

We set out in FY 16/17 with a relatively ambitious UK growth budget which we were aware would present challenges given how competitive the UK market remains.

However, it was quickly derailed due to the unexpected Brexit result which had a very immediate impact on our Commercial Services division, and our Real Estate practice in particular. This impact, together with the continued challenges in the Insurance market diluted the potential H1 growth we had anticipated in the UK market.

In the second half of the year, we saw a shift. Client demand picked up and we recovered onto our growth trajectory, ending the year with a significant amount of momentum and with growth in three of our six UK Practice Groups and in our international locations.

Growth through M&A

Our strategy recognises that organic UK growth is going to continue to be challenging, so we have a significant focus on M&A activity and we executed four important deals:

  1. We acquired niche Law Firm Fox Hartley early in the year to strengthen our insurance, litigation and product liability capability and enhance our sector expertise. It helped secure new domestic and international insurer clients.
  2. We merged with Belfast-based commercial Law Firm C&H Jefferson on 1 December 2016, one of the largest legal practices in Northern Ireland. This gave us an all-Ireland capability which we view as critical for the Ireland market and particularly timely in light of Brexit.
  3. We merged with Heenan Paris, an established office in Paris with an international outlook. With France being one of Germany’s largest and most significant trading partners, the merger complemented our growing European footprint.
  4. Our Triton deal was one that happened very quickly. We’re an opportunistic business and saw great potential in Triton. There was strong operational synergy, given their footprint matched ours, along with an opportunity to extend our non-legal services in areas such as loss adjusting and claims handling.

We are still in build mode in certain practices and locations and FY 16/17 also saw us make a number of strategic lateral hires, in addition to the M&A activity.

Good revenue outturn

Our strong second half and M&A activity has given us an encouraging revenue outturn, seeing a 7% increase in revenue compared to the previous year. In terms of profitability, pricing remains a challenge in the UK market and we absorbed significant one-off M&A-related costs to integrate the four businesses which joined DWF during the year. We also continued with lateral hire activity to build upon the M&A investments, and this has led to a profit outturn which, whilst ahead of PY, has given a short term dip in PEP.

Maximising potential

Over the past few years we have worked hard together to take a traditional Law Firm model and turn it on its head, in line with our strategy of doing things differently.

With our geographical expansion and the creation of Connected Services, which brings together complementary products and services to our core legal offering, we have laid the groundwork for a step-change in our performance and position in the market.

We already have seen in the final quarter of FY 16/17 and the first quarter of FY 17/18 an indication of the potential for additional revenue that our investments are bringing.