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Accounts revealed: DLA Piper revenues slip as partner numbers shrink

DLA Piper‘s European, Asian and Middle Eastern operations suffered a fall in revenue from £800m to £787.5m for the 12 months to 30 April 2014.

While UK revenues rose sharply, Australia was the biggest contributor to the firm’s dip in revenues. A senior figure at the firm told Legal Business: ‘Firstly, the economy in Australia took quite a dive and secondly, we’ve been reshaping our Australia practice to exit from some of the high volume, low value insurance work and focusing on the areas more aligned with our global strategy and operating to the big global organisations.’

According to filings made at Companies House, DLA Piper International LLP, which comprises all of the firm’s offices outside of the US, made wide ranging cuts across its international network to headcount. The total number of people employed fell 6% from 5,208 to 4,911 with staff costs decreasing from £531.9m to £509.7m.

The total number of fee earners across the firm’s European, Asian and Middle East operations decreased 7% from 2,226 to 2,081. There were also 30 fewer equity partners on 30 April 2014 than the year previous, with the size of the partnership shrinking from 733 to 703. The highest paid partner at the firm received £1.8m.

The headcount changes were in part due to DLA Piper’s rework of its Asian practice to improve the quality of its services, which resulted in a number of underperforming partners being asked to leave the firm. Cuts were also made among support staff, with 130 fewer employees, and the trainee intakes were slashed, with 343 trainees on the firm’s books on 30 April 2014 compared to 365 the previous year.

Group operating profit slipped marginally from £799.4m to £786.7m, but the firm did manage to reduce its debt pile by 44% from £32.4m to £18.2m. A source at the firm revealed that Australian revenues slumped 24% from £131m to £101m.

Operating profit within this unit, which accounts for 47% of fee earners, rose 8% from £115m to £125m. Cash at bank and in hand was also up, rising from £2.7m to £5.9m as of 30 April 2014. T

But the accounts also reveal that the UK LLP suffered the bulk of the staffing cuts, with the size of its equity partnership falling 10% from 382 to 344 members. The highest paid partner within these countries took home £1.4m, up markedly on the £1.1m in 2013.