DWF enters Canada legal market through £27.7m deal to buy Vancouver law firm

Acquisition of Whitelaw Twining follows tie-ups in Portugal, Spain and Hong Kong

Listed UK law firm DWF is expanding into the Canadian legal market through a tie-up with Vancouver independent Whitelaw Twining Law Corporation for £27.7m. 

DWF said the acquisition of the 16-partner firm along with intra-group services company TWK Management (collectively Whitelaw Twining) provided a platform to strengthen its market position in Canada with legal services alongside the firm’s existing claims and adjusting businesses.

“Whitelaw Twining is one of the country’s top legal businesses and represents a high quality opportunity for our clients,” said Sir Nigel Knowles, DWF Group CEO, adding that it would allow the firm to expand its claims and adjusting presence in Canada and wider specialist business and legal services arms in North America.

Whitelaw Twining specialises in insurance, commercial litigation, personal injury and dispute resolution, which DWF said offered a ‘strong strategic fit and clear overlap’ with its own business, especially its focus on the London insurance market.

The firm’s 16 partners and 200 professionals are based in offices in Calgary as well as Vancouver, while revenue for 2021 was £20.0m and pro forma EBITDA was £3.0m. 

DWF said it expected the acquisition, set to complete by the end of 2022, to be earnings enhancing in the first full year of ownership. The acquisition is valued at up to £27.7m with a maximum consideration of up to £16.9m payable in shares and cash and the assumption or repayment of debt of £10.8m. 

"We already know DWF well,” Daniel Shugarman, country managing partner of Whitelaw Twining, commented. “We recognise the shared values and 'one team' approach of our two businesses and we are delighted that through DWF Group's listed company status we are able to make our Whitelaw Twining colleagues shareholders with an opportunity to benefit from our future success."

DWF has made a string of strategic moves this year, having announced in 2020 it was downsizing its international network in a cost-cutting drive in response to the impact of Covid-19 and last year closing three of its Australian offices, in the process cutting a total of 160 jobs.

Since the start of the year it has unveiled tie-ups with local firms in Portugal, Spain and Hong Kong, opened in Seville through its Spanish affiliate, and promoted 17 lawyers to partner in its February round, having elevated just six the year before. 

In July the firm also reported a solid performance during the previous financial year, when revenue grew 3.8% to £416.1m against a 5.3% rise in gross profit to £180.9m.

“We have worked hard to ensure DWF is in a strong position so we can confidently make these key international acquisitions, enabling us to make further progress against our strategy to be the preeminent global provider of integrated legal and business services,” Knowles said. 

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