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‘Inevitable distractions’ hit BCLP revenue and profit in lean post-merger debut

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) endured a challenging debut year as a fully-merged entity, as the cost of integration weighed on growth.

Turnover was down 2% to $874.1m from the $899.4m the firm posted for 2018, the year legacy Berwin Leighton Paisner and Bryan Cave finalised their transatlantic union. Net income was also down almost 4% to $228m.

‘It’s relevant to put it in the context of the first 21 months since the merger,’ BCLP co-chair Lisa Mayhew (pictured) told Legal Business. ‘At the end of 2018 we saw a 5% profit boost and a 1% increase in revenue and that was impressive. Inevitably when you integrate two large firms there’s a distraction element, there’s inevitably a bit of a cost to that integration. But I’d take that 5% increase in profit and a slight dip in revenue.’

Profit per equity partner (PEP), however, also saw a modest falls, edging down 1% to $833,000 from $844,000 over 2019 while revenue per lawyer was likewise down, dropping 2% to $621,000 from $631,000. Lawyer headcount at the firm, meanwhile, remained largely stable, dropping a 2% to 1,399. The decline in PEP comes despite an almost 3% fall in the number of equity partners, but, more positively, the Anglo American firm recorded a net positive cash balance of $86m.

Last summer, Mayhew was elected to serve another four years as co-head of the firm, while St Louis transactional partner Steven Baumer was elected to succeed Therese Pritchard after she became ineligible to serve another stint. Later in December, St Louis and London evenly shared the spoils of a 17-strong global promotion round. The firm has also recently engaged with management consultancy McKinsey as the firm undertakes a strategic review.

Despite the subdued financials, BCLP started 2020 with a splash, recruiting a 21-strong team of lawyers in Paris, including seven partners, with more having joined since. The move was the firm’s largest addition since its merger went live, though further expansion on the continent in 2020 is not expected, with the firm currently having 31 offices across the globe.

Despite the increasing global uncertainty, Mayhew remained sanguine about 2020: ‘We are going to be served well by the fact we’re four months into a strategy exercise with McKinsey. We have intellectual momentum behind us so we will continue to be a bit ahead on that side.’