Legal Business Blogs

Forsters appoints new private client head as department hits 164% revenue increase over five years

West End boutique Forsters has appointed Fiona Smith to take over as head of the private client department as it achieves a run of 164% revenue increase over five years.

Smith, who succeeds current head David Robinson at the Mayfair firm, specialises in offshore tax planning, wills, trusts and probate law. She acts as adviser to many of the firm’s longstanding clients, including media figures, entrepreneurs, charities, landed estates and directors or owners of listed UK companies.

Her appointment comes just weeks after the LB100 firm posted a 16% revenue increase, with fee income coming in ahead of budget at £32.5m, up from £28m in 2011-12.

Profits are up by 11% and profits per equity partner increased by 6% from £392,000 in 2011-12 to £431,000 over the last financial year, putting the firm’s PEP comfortably ahead of a number of top 30 LB100 firms including Wragge & Co, Nabarro and DAC Beachcroft.

High points over the year include the successful re-tender of The Crown Estate’s non-core and residential portfolio and the cross-firm work on Greenwich Peninsula.

The 120-lawyer firm attributed its growth in private client work, which averages out at 32.8% a year, to a strategy of lateral hires and more recently as a result of an increased focus on developing referral relationships within international wealth centres such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and North America.

Elsewhere the real estate department increased its fee income over the year by 7%, for the first time taking revenues back above pre-2008 levels, and the residential real estate team saw a 30% increase in revenue largely thanks to renewed appetite from overseas investors in Central London property.

Speaking to Legal Business, Smith said the firm plans to further its Asian links and build its onshore practice, while maintaining its strong partner input and low leverage model. ‘We don’t want to get too unwieldy and lose the partner input we are able to offer. Whilst gearing is extremely important, there comes a point where if you have one partner and a huge number of assistants it’s hard to keep the quality levels up.’