DLA confirms all-equity switch after non-US partners approve overhaul

DLA Piper is set to move to an all-equity partnership across the UK, Europe and Asia after partners at DLA International voted to abandon the existing three-tier structure in preference of a single rank of partner.

Voting on the proposals to move to an all-equity partnership outside the US closed yesterday (13 March) after opening last month, with the firm confirming today (14 March) that it had achieved the majority required to push ahead with the plans.

The decision – which required the approval of 75% of its full equity and fixed-share partners, and a lower percentage of its salaried partners – paves the way for the new structure to come into effect from 1 May.

It has not yet been decided how much partners will have to pay in, though the figure is expected to be at least £50,000, with the firm guaranteeing salaries for the first three years to ensure that junior partners do not see a dip in their take home pay.

DLA’s international partnership, which houses the firm’s operations outside the US, is currently split relatively equally across the three tiers of partner, with around one third of its 628 partners enjoying full equity status, with the remainder split between its salaried and fixed-share rank.

Nigel Knowles (pictured), DLA’s joint chief executive said: “We are pleased to announce that the firm’s partners have approved the one class of partner proposal. This change to a single class of partnership will come into effect on 1 May 2012 and will further align the interests of all our partners as we move to the next stage of the firm’s development.”

The vote ends months of debate on the issue, with UK managing partner David Bradley touring the UK in the run-up to Christmas, holding meetings to present initial proposals and gather feedback on the proposals.

It will bring the transatlantic firm’s international partnership in line with partners in the US, who moved to an all equity structure in 2008 when 275 partners contributed up to $150,000 (£94,700) each to join the equity.

Assuming a minimum contribution of £50,000 from salaried and fixed share partners in the international partnership, DLA stands to generate around £20m from the move.

Bradley previously told Legal Week that the cash injection has not been earmarked to pay down debt or fuel expansion. He said: “The extra cash will go back into the running of the business with the overall effect that there will be an adjustment as to how we fund the balance sheet.”