DLA Piper to begin job loss talks with lawyers

LAW firm DLA Piper yesterday confirmed that it plans to start redundancy talks with 251 lawyers and back office staff, following a review of its UK business.

The firm said that the changes could lead to a small drop in the number of fee earners at its Sheffield office, while more staff could be hired in Leeds.

The firm also revealed that it is considering closing its Glasgow office, which has 85 staff.

It is considering closing or divesting its 50-strong defendant insurance practice, as well as consolidating its document production unit into one location.

The unit employs 116 people across the firm’s eight UK offices.

A spokesman for DLA said yesterday: “Leeds is likely to benefit from an increase in jobs, given that the plan is to centralise our UK-wide document production team into the Leeds office.

“We are hoping to transfer the defendant insurance team, based in Sheffield and Birmingham, to a third party as a going con- cern.”

The defendant insurance team undertakes work on a range of insured and uninsured matters for insurers and corporates.

The team’s range of expertise covers accidents and all types of diseases including asbestos-related chest conditions.

They also provide strategic advice in relation to group actions and pharmaceutical product liability advice.

The consultation is expected to begin later this month and will be completed early in 2013.

With DLA’s current UK-wide headcount standing at 2,494, the redundancy talks will involve around 10 per cent of all UK-based staff.

A DLA Piper spokesman said the consultation followed a comprehensive review of its UK business “designed to ensure that we are operating in a manner, in the locations, and across the practice areas that support both our strategic objectives and the needs of our clients”.

Leeds is DLA Piper’s second largest UK office by headcount, with a ‘collegiate’ group of 44 partners.

Altogether, DLA has 500 staff in Leeds and 350 in Sheffield.

In June, Sarah Day, the office managing partner, said DLA Piper’s operation in Leeds has reported a “phenomenal” year in fee income.

Ms Day, the office managing partner since May 2011, said the last financial year was the “best in recent history”.

Ms Day, who is a finance partner, said the strong performance was due to areas that typically do well in downturns such as litigation, but also others that might have been expected to struggle, such as real estate.

The office has diversified its client base in recent years and acts for a number of national and international property and venture capital funds, including Sun Capital Partners, the US buyout firm.

She told the Yorkshire Post: “Clients will be instructing us from outside Yorkshire and outside the country because of relationships and expertise.

“We have strong links with China, the Commonwealth of Independent States, France and Germany and West Coast USA.”

She said a lot of corporates were doing very well, in spite of the recession.

She added: “They might not be leveraging in the way they might have done a number of years ago but they are active and making the most of having a good cash position and some good transactions to be done in this market.

“It is not a doldrums recession. It is a problem on a macro level. We have a lot of strong businesses continuing to do well but moving cautiously.”

DLA can trace its Yorkshire roots back to 1764, when the firm of Barnard & Bolland was established in Leeds.

The newly qualified Thomas Dibb became a partner at Barnard & Bolland and added his name in 1829.

The three-letter abbreviation used by the firm today conceals a complex history of consolidation and name changes.

It picked up Lupton, from Nelson Eddison & Lupton in 1920. The firm merged with Broomhead of Sheffield in 1988 and Alsop Wilkinson in 1996.

The firm was known as Dibb Lupton Alsop until the turn of the century, when the name was shortened to DLA.

The royal link

DLA has an unexpected link with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge’s Yorkshire ancestors. Her grandfather’s father was Noel Middleton, a Leeds solicitor who married Olive Lupton, the daughter of Francis Martineau Lupton, a former member of Leeds city council who was one of a number of the Lupton family who were active in Leeds society at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. A book, The Lupton Family of Leeds by C A Lupton has been written about them. The Lupton family has been involved in many aspects of commercial life: the name of Dibb Lupton, now DLA, came from Charles Lupton.