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Accounts revealed: Berwin Leighton Paisner profits rise 26% after headcount cutback

Accounts filed at Companies House have revealed Berwin Leighton Paisner made a strong financial recovery in 2013/14, with profit after tax rising 26% to £66.3m for the financial year, up from £52.4m in 2012/13, as the firm captured a greater volume of work and trimmed the size of its workforce.

Staffing cuts announced in 2012 failed to produce the 15% savings expected, with wages and salaries costs only falling 4% from £90.7m in 2012/13 to £87.1m in 2013/14. Focusing on London however, wages and salaries fell 9% – and 12% on an annualised basis – from £67.4m in 2013 to £61.5m in 2014. A BLP spokesperson, regarding the remaining shortfall, said: ‘Towards the end of last year there were headcount additions made to different areas of the business, stripping these out will give us a saving of around 15%.’

The firm cut 10% of its support staff in the year to 30 April 2014, with headcount falling from 658 to 589, other staff costs rose from £3.9m to £9.3m as redundancy pay-outs mounted. The number of partners at the firm also fell, from 179 on 30 April 2013 to 167 the following year with the highest paid partner at the firm receiving £1.2m, the same amount as in 2013.

After a substantial increase in its debt in 2012/13, BLP managed to pay off £13m in bank loans in the year to 30 April 2014, helping to bring its net debt down from £34.6m in 2012/13 to £29.25m in 2013/14. This resulted in a sharp fall in cash at bank and in hand from £12.4m in 2012/13 to £6.2m in 2013/14.

The firm was forced to pay out more interest on its debt, with costs rising nearly 50% from £667,000 in 2012/13 to £993,000 in 2013/14 while its bank overdraft was increased from £371,000 to £1.86m.

The filing also showed that the firm currently has a 70% stake in Lawyers on Demand, the flexible rent-a-lawyer service that spun out of BLP, and holds 80% voting rights.