Two Snowhill, Gowling WLG’s U.K. headquarters in Birmingham, England. (Craig Holmes)
Gowling WLG, a roughly 1,400-lawyer firm formed last year following a cross-border combination between British firm Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co and Canadian firm Gowling Lafleur Henderson, released its first financial statement this week.
The combined firm, which went live in early 2016, took in £390.1 million ($504.3 million) in gross revenue during fiscal 2016-17. The Canadian arm of Gowling WLG contributed £200 million ($258.6 million) to the firm’s coffers, according to Legal Week, with the U.K. partnership generating £190.1 million ($245.8 million) to total turnover.
Gowling WLG does not have any offices in the U.S. and the firm’s leaders have consistently said that they are not interested in taking on a U.S. partner, although they have expressed interest in other merger deals in China and Germany. If Gowling WLG were eligible for The Am Law 100, the firm’s gross revenue for 2016-17 would have put it at No. 66 in the most recent rankings.
“We were pleased to navigate the Brexit uncertainty last summer, staying close to our key clients and growing our U.K. business, with our international platform generating over 1,000 new clients and instructions [that] we simply would not have won in the past,” said David Fennell, a former CEO of Birmingham, England-based Wragge now serving as co-chair of Gowling WLG’s international board and CEO of its U.K. arm.
Andrew Witts, Gowling WLG’s U.K. chairman, said that the firm’s core business performed well over its past fiscal year, citing new hires in Canada, Guangzhou, Munich, Paris and Singapore. Witts also noted that Gowling WLG has picked up mandates for clients like Bombardier Inc., The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and Weetabix Ltd.
Gowling WLG does not operate under a Swiss verein structure, instead using the company limited by guarantee model, a decision that the firm’s strategic development director Jenny Hardy spoke about earlier this year with The American Lawyer. Like many global firms, Gowling WLG’s Canadian and U.K. partnerships are not financially integrated and do not share profits.
Last year Gowling WLG’s legacy U.K. arm reported £184.7 million in gross revenue for 2015-16, a 2 percent increase over its previous fiscal year, with profits per equity partner coming in at £379,000. Figures for Ottawa-based predecessor Gowling were not available, as Canadian law firms generally do not release financial information. Legal Week has estimated that Gowling WLG’s global profits per equity partner were £290,000 ($374,938) during 2016-17, a number that rises to £412,000 ($532,671) when accounting for only the U.K. arm of the firm.
In March, Gowling WLG opened in Stuttgart, its second office in Germany, but also saw a 14-lawyer private client team leave its London office that same month for British firm Forsters.