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Business as usual: Clydes posts 10% PEP rise as revenues close in on £400m

As has been the case since its merger with Barlow Lyde & Gilbert in 2011, Global 100 firm Clyde & Co has posted strong revenue and profit growth on the back of an expansive year. The firm has today (23 June) reported an 8% revenue increase for 2014/15 to £395m, while profit per equity partner has grown 10% from £599,000 last year to £660,000.

The performance surpasses that of last year, when revenues were also up 8% but PEP grew by just 3%. It also means that following the initial spike in revenues post the BLG merger, turnover has grown by 18% since 2012/13, while PEP has moved from £580,000 to £660,000 – an increase of 14%.

Senior partner James Burns (pictured), whose mantra on taking over the role 18 months ago was ‘business as usual’, told Legal Business that the pleasing aspect of this year’s result was that it maintained the consistent growth track post-merger. The success of the firm in recent years has been not only because of its focus on disputes (over 70% of revenues come from contentious work) but also geographic and practice area diversity.

‘It is fair to say that we have successfully broadened our capability across geographies and practice areas,’ said Burns. ‘While disputes – and the insurance sector – is where we have excelled, we have not just relied on our strength in this area to move forward. We have become more international and more diverse in our sector offerings.’

The latest results come on the back of a flurry of new office openings for Clydes, including Newport Beach, California (June 2014); Cape Town and Johannesburg (August); its own office in Riyadh (September); and Brisbane (October). However, despite the seemingly significant overheads connected with such expansion, Burns said profitability remained undiluted, largely because, as Burns said, the offices were set up with small teams of lawyers hired laterally. For example, Burns said that the firm had seen a 33% growth on its investment in Australia, where the firm now has four offices.

Among the strongest-performing regions for the firm geographically were Asia, where revenue increased by 30% for the second successive year and Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where revenues grew 15% year on year. An uptick in work in the region has seen the firm make 11 internal promotions in the last three years.

Closer to home Burns noted that the Manchester office – its second-largest office and inherited from BLG – had performed particularly well for insurance work delivering ‘not just revenue growth but very good profitability as well’.

The decision to take the unusual step of forming a practice group offering from a sector group focus also seems to have paid off. While Clyde & Co has had a credible arbitration capability within sectors such as trade, marine and aviation, Burns said the decision to form an international arbitration group to target commercial disputes has seen the practice grow 40% in the last year.

Burns also confirmed that merger negotiations were ongoing with Scottish firm Simpson & Marwick, noting that the proposed deal involved separate jurisdictions, which added to the complexity. ‘With what is effectively a cross-border deal, things cannot be tied up overnight,’ he said.