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Hogan Lovells’ International business slims down headcount amid 8% revenue growth

Profits at Hogan Lovells’ non-US business rose 11% to £281m last year as it slimmed down lawyer headcount by 37 in 2018, the firm’s LLP accounts have shown.

The accounts published today (2 October) show revenue from the firm’s offices in 21 countries outside the States grew 8% to £860m in the year to December 2018, up from £798m the previous year.

The turnover growth came as fee-earner average headcount during the year reduced to 1,632 from 1,669, while support staff numbers were down by 12 to 1,639. Total staff was down to 3,259 from 3,308.

Despite the headcount reduction, staff costs rose 2% to £335m. The firm said in summer 2018 it would cut more than 50 City business support roles in a bid to improve efficiency.

The average number of equity partners also shrank slightly to 320 compared with 329 in 2017.

This combined with the profit increase meant average profit per equity partner (PEP) shot up 17% to £1.07m from £913,000.

UK revenue rose 8% to £324m, while in continental Europe it grew 11% to £421m, but turnover in Asia Pacific and the Middle East was down 3% to £115m.

A spokesperson for the firm said it continued to have ‘a robust balance sheet with no net debt outstanding at year end’.

The LLP books show that the non-US offices, which account for 49% of turnover, outpaced the firm’s overall revenue growth.

In February Hogan Lovells posted revenue of $2.12bn, up 4% on $2.04bn in 2017, a less pacey rate of growth than the 6% achieved in each of the previous two years. In sterling terms this translated as a 1% rise to £1.6bn.

But global PEP rose 8% to $1.38m, or 4% to £1.04m, after the firm reduced equity partner headcount 6% to 523 in 2018.

Chief executive Steve Immelt told Legal Business last February that the firm had to be ‘very careful not to be overstaffed, and we were very focused on that’. He added: ‘Notwithstanding those changes, revenue went up and revenue per lawyer is considerably up.’