Dundas and Wilson to merge with London-based CMS

One of the biggest and most prestigious law firms in Scotland, Dundas and Wilson, is to merge with London-based lawyers CMS.

A partner vote resulted in approval for the move from next May, focussing on energy and finance sectors.

Scots law has been a pillar of the nation's identity throughout three centuries of union with England.

Yet just as the country heads towards a referendum on that union, its legal establishment is facing unprecedented challenge to give in to London mergers and takeovers.

That's due to a loss of corporate work, notably resulting from the Scottish banks' problems. Some firms lack capital and have struggled through the downturn.

And the whole sector is having to find new ways of working, with de-regulation in the market and with increasingly global clients.

Dundas and Wilson has history, prestige and a big footprint in Scottish legal services. As with the takeover of McGrigor's by Pinsent Masons, the merger with CMS is being promoted as a gain to clients.

But it could come to represent a significant loss to the sector's autonomy and confidence in Scotland - with more similar moves expected.

It ends autonomy for the Scots firm, which has 71 partners and 450 employees in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Its roots go back to 1759, and recent sector rankings have put it among the top Scottish performers.

Following the merger, CMS, which rates itself the tenth biggest global law firm, will give the Scottish firm a reach to 31 countries, with 830 partners.

CMS already has Edinburgh and Aberdeen offices, specialising in finance and energy. It is not yet clear if that overlap will mean a loss of jobs.

Nor is it clear if the Dundas & Wilson brand will continue to be used, alongside the CMS Cameron McKenna used by the firm in England.

Duncan Weston, managing partner of CMS in London, commented: "With Dundas and Wilson, we believe we can offer many of our clients, particularly in the energy and financial institution sectors, a stronger and better service".

Caryn Penley and Allan Wernham, co-managing partners of Dundas and Wilson, issued a statement saying: "We believe that together Dundas & Wilson and CMS would have unrivalled strength and depth in Scotland, an exceptional UK platform and global reach."

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