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Financials 2020/21: ‘Tremendous resilience’ from Freshfields yields 5% turnover and profit growth

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has weathered the coronavirus crisis to report a 5% addition to its top line and profit per equity partner (PEP) respectively, a slight return to form after last year’s more subdued showing.

The firm said today (30 July) that revenue increased to £1.59bn from last year’s £1.52bn as PEP hit £1.91m – a notable increase on last year’s slight drop to £1.82m.

The figures mark a resurgence after last year when Freshfields had a hefty investment in an ambitious US strategy to thank for its more muted performance.

The firm has kept that momentum going, launching a seven-partner office in Silicon Valley and augmenting its technology, life sciences and antitrust practices with hires in its New York Washington DC and Silicon Valley outposts. America aside, Freshfields won praise during the year by becoming the first Magic Circle firm to elect a female senior partner in the form of admired Asia disputes head Georgia Dawson.

While there is never an easy time to take the helm of the leadership of an international giant, the leadership team that took over in January 2021 – which also includes managing partners Alan Mason, Rick van Aerssen and Rafique Bachour – has had its work cut out amid the ongoing pandemic.

In spite of that, the firm has delivered a fifth consecutive year of revenue growth, with standout mandates that include acting on AstraZeneca’s $39bn acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals, London Stock Exchange Group on strategy for its $27bn acquisition of Refinitiv and Cazoo on its sale to a US SPAC for $7bn.

In the vein of the now ubiquitous ESG agenda, Freshfields said it achieved its five-year environmental targets set in 2016 and has set new targets as part of a new ambitious global environment strategy. That includes a commitment through the RE100 initiative to source 100% renewable energy for all offices by 2030 and having a sustainability focus for its new London office at 100 Bishopsgate.

The firm also set out new five-year global diversity and inclusion commitments and targets for gender, race and ethnicity and LGBTQ+ representation, as well as achieving a 50/50 gender split for partner promotions globally, exceeding the 40% target for female partners.

Van Aerssen commented: ‘This strong set of results reflects Freshfields’ continued success in our core markets, as well as our expansion in growth markets such as the US. The ability of our global platform to deliver for clients as a destination practice across all the key disciplines is a formula that works, shown by revenue growth across all our regions and practice areas against the backdrop of the pandemic.

‘The firm’s success could not have been achieved without the hard work of all our colleagues, who have shown tremendous resilience and dedication to deliver the best possible outcomes for our clients in the face of an incredibly challenging year.’