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Dundas & Wilson gets new management team and strategic focus

Newly appointed co-managing partner Allan Wernham reveals to Managing Partner the changes that are afoot at the Scottish firm

22 June 2012

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Scottish firm Dundas & Wilson announced yesterday the appointment of Caryn Penley and Allan Wernham as the firm’s new co-managing partners, supported by Laurence Ward as the non-executive chairman.

Penley and Wernham, who have been serving as interim managing partners since March, will commence their four-year terms on 1 August, when Laurence Ward will also take up his position.

The interim managing partners were appointed following the surprise resignation of Donald Shaw in March, just under two years into his second three-year term as managing partner. Shaw had shared the role with Alan Campbell during his first term.

The firm’s current chairman, David Hardie, will be stepping down on 31 July.

The firm’s management responsibilities will be divided between the three of them, with Ward focusing on governance, partnership issues and providing strategic insight to the co-managing partners, Penley concentrating on the operational management of the firm and Wernham focusing on the external elements of the role.

The co-managing partners have been introducing several changes since they took up their interim roles.

First, they are dividing their time equally between client work and firm management. Traditionally, the firm has had full-time managing partners who have divested themselves of client work.

“We think that, in the current climate, it makes a great deal of economic sense for the firm to have all of its partners generating revenues,” Wernham tells Managing Partner. “We’ve both previously held head of department roles that we’ve combined with client work, so we’re used to working in that environment.”

Second, they have been improving internal communications and increasing partner engagement. “Over the past few months, we’ve started building more engagement and dialogue among our partners so that we are all able to understand the business well and are able to sell each other’s skills to our markets, removing structural barriers from that,” says Wernham.

The co-managing partners have also set up weekly partner meetings in each office with a business-led agenda. “Before we were managing partners, our conversations as partners had become quite internally focused, so we’re really trying to set an agenda around our external focus and how we can grow the business,” says Wernham.

“My sense of it is that it is going down very well with the partner group, so I think we’ve already started to see a sort of change of mood and that people are looking forward with some optimism.”

Third, the co-managing partners have been focusing on improving the firm’s external communications. “One of our short-term priorities is providing good, clear external communications and increasing the profile of the firm in the market,” says Wernham.

The firm has been subject to some negative media coverage in the past few months. Responding to reports in early April of the firm’s plans to make 28 members of staff redundant, the firm’s current chairman, Hardie, told The Herald: “It is not that we have taken out 30 people and shot them”.

More recently, reports emerged in mid-June that Keith Armstrong, the-then head of the firm’s energy and infrastructure practice, had come into possession of confidential information which may have prejudiced a tender process. Wernham says the investigation surrounding the circumstances is still ongoing. 

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