Legal Business Blogs

HFW, Fieldfisher post double-digit revenue hikes as results season gets off to strong start

HFW has posted double-digit growth to break through the £250m revenue mark for the first time, with all key metrics rising as the firm sticks to its sector-focused strategy.

The firm boosted revenue by more than 11% during 2023-24 to hit £251m –  only a touch slower than the 13% growth that took it to £225.3m last year.

Net profit was up almost 17% to £75.4m, with PEP up more than 8% and PPL up over 6% to £855,000 and £139,000 respectively. RPL was also up, hitting £462,000.

The results underline a strong five-year performance, with revenue up more than 40% on 2019 and PEP up 78% over the same period.

The firm attributed the performance to its concentrated focus on its key areas of shipping, aviation, commodities, construction, energy, and insurance.

‘We’re pleased with the continued progress of the firm, particularly in the last couple of years’, managing partner Jeremy Shebson (pictured above) told LB. ‘We’re especially proud of the fact that we’re making positive inroads in our key sectors.’

Shebson was reluctant to set hard targets for revenue – though he did express an ambition to post ‘revenues with a three in front before too long’. He continued: ‘The first psychological barrier we had to break through to give the firm confidence in itself was to get over £200m in revenue. We did that a few years ago, and we’re very happy now to be over £250m.’

Almost 60% of the firm’s total revenue was generated outside of the UK, with over half of the firm’s offices achieving double-digit percentage increases in revenue in the last financial year. Australia notched the biggest rise, with turnover up by a third to cap off a ten-year streak of growth in the country. Middle East revenue, meanwhile, grew by 23%.

‘We see major opportunities for continued growth in continental Europe and the Middle East’, said senior partner Giles Kavanagh. ‘We have strong offices in both regions and we’re seeking to further join things up as a real regional offering to clients.’

China, too, is an area of focus for HFW: the firm opened an office in Shenzhen in July, becoming one of few firms to actively increase its presence in the country at a time when many US firms are pulling out. Kavanagh commented: ‘We celebrated 45 years in Hong Kong last year. Geopolitics are what they are, and things change over time, but we have strong embedded relationships in China. We see opportunities there – as others are retreating, we’re consolidating our position.’

Meanwhile, contentious work again made up around 70% of the firm’s total turnover, with the firm pointing to its January hire of an eight-lawyer team in Melbourne led by litigation funding specialist Maurice Thompson, as well as its April hire of Eversheds Sutherland international arbitration partners Julien Fouret and Gaëlle Le Quillec in Paris as key signs of growth in this area. These hires were among 23 partners brought into the firm over the last year, including four in London and seven in Australia.

HFW is bullish on expansion, if reluctant to express an explicit desire to merge. ‘We remain open to opportunity’, said Kavanagh, and both he and Shebson stressed the importance of culture – to individual and team hires as much as to any larger combinations.

In a statement, Shebson added a clear statement of intent: ‘Our intention now is to ramp things up and aggressively target partners, teams, and even bolt-on acquisitions that align with our strategy and culture. If you have a leading practice in one of our core sectors, anywhere in the world, and want to join a true partnership that operates as one firm globally, come and talk to us.’

Elsewhere, Fieldfisher has also posted a double-digit revenue hike to £359m  for the 11 months from 30 April 2023 to 31 March 2024 – a 10% increase on the corresponding 11-month period for the previous year.

The firm truncated its financial year to align with changes to HMRC’s basis period that require all self-employed individuals and partnerships be taxed on the basis of the tax year rather than that of their own financial year-end.

PEP rose £966,000, up 4% from the previous financial year.

Geographically, the firm saw a 14% revenue growth in its London office, a 14% rise in Manchester, and a 16% revenue increase in Birmingham. In Europe, significant developments included a 20% growth in the German office, now the firm’s fastest-growing international operation with offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, and Munich.

Fieldfisher’s European strategy also saw the relaunch of its Italian operation in April. Fieldfisher Italy has expanded to 32 professionals in its Milan and Bologna offices, reinforcing the firm’s investments in key locations.

In terms of practice areas, regulatory experienced the largest revenue increase at 36%. Key achievements include representing Euronet in a competition law claim against Mastercard and Visa, and providing regulatory and compliance support to Peloton. Dispute resolution saw a 17% increase in revenue, while the personal injury and medical negligence team achieved a 15% revenue increase. Additionally, financial markets and products grew by 14% and corporate by 10%.

Managing Partner Robert Shooter commented on the results: This has been a year of significant progress, with our strategy focused on European expansion, collaboration and ESG gaining a real momentum. All our teams delivered outstanding results, despite challenging market conditions. We also continued to expand and strengthen our international footprint, increasing our presence in key markets.’

Key hires over the year included the addition of an eight-strong litigation team from Constantine Cannon, led by partners Richard Pike and Stephen Critchley.

Meanwhile, the firm’s alternative legal services offering continued to grow, with Fieldfisher Condor achieving a 17% revenue increase and Fieldfisher X generating £3m in revenue.