Legal Business Blogs

Cyber-attack hacks at DLA profit as strong UK performance lifts revenue 5%

Growth in DLA Piper’s UK business has pushed the firm’s international LLP top line to £919m, but 2017’s cyber-attack has weighed on profit.

The firm’s international (non-US) revenue for the year to 30 April 2018 grew £42.2m, or 5%, of which £29m related to the UK business. Stripping out the impact of foreign exchange, however, which the previous financial year added an enormous £75.5m to revenue, fee income was up £33.1m, or about 4%.

Profit was up £11.4m to £315.8m, even as operating costs increased £31.9m to £600.5m. DLA chief financial officer Paul Edwards told Legal Business it had been a strong year of underlying growth, particularly as currency movements had much less impact than the previous year.

But he said the firm’s 2017 cyber incident, which occurred during this year’s results period, had impacted profit.

‘I couldn’t even give you a number on this but I do know it cost us,’ he commented. ‘Had that not happened we’d be talking about, I believe, an even stronger year.’

Edwards said growth in UK fee income of about 10% was one of the strongest performances in the firm’s international regions, while Europe and Asia-Pacific saw more modest, single-digit growth. He was particularly pleased with the firm’s performance in Africa, which more than doubled during the period.

‘It’s a rounding number in the big picture of the whole firm but for us it’s a complete endorsement of our strategy: our Johannesburg office really did see some big growth.’

The firm’s borrowings increased to £32.6m from £14.4m in the year, ahead of a big period of investment which has included moving into new London offices and rolling out new IT equipment across the firm worldwide.

Key management personnel, which includes the senior partner, managing partner, members of the executive committee, international practice group heads, country managing partners and service directors took home a 22% pay increase, up to £44m from £36.1m.

Total staff numbers at the firm rose to 5,120 from 4,955, while fee earner numbers recovered from a slight dip the previous year to reach 2,135 from 2,026. Staff costs increased 6% to £329.2m.

Edwards said the firm was pleased with the first nine months of this year but economic uncertainty was front of mind.

‘We’re now reporting to the board on a month-by-month basis, there’s the shadow of Brexit,’ he commented. ‘The world’s not in a great place.’