Legal Business Blogs

LB100: relative revival for City elite in 2016 as a range of smaller players excel

The big four Magic Circle firms have posted their strongest performance in this year’s Legal Business 100 (LB100) since the recession, despite a subdued market overall.

Although average revenue for the top 25 is down 3% to £622m, the combined revenue of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy (A&O) stands at £5.33bn, up 4% on last year, while average profit per equity partner (PEP) jumped 5% to £1.33m.

A&O managing partner Andrew Ballheimer said: ‘The year has seen mixed markets around the world. In that context these are another set of solid results which highlight our people’s ability to spot opportunities for growth.’

Meanwhile, a number of mid-market firms have seen growth slow after strong performances in 2014/15, with Macfarlanes announcing a 17% drop in PEP to £1.3m, as well as flat revenue – up 1% to £161m.

Strong performers in the national mid-market last year, Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard, have seen their rate of revenue growth slow to 5%, to £382.3m and £201.8m respectively. Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, DWF, Olswang and Ince & Co also all posted lower turnover than in 2014/15.

In the second half of the table, the London-based boutiques and West End firms and regional heavyweights are the best performing firms collectively in this year’s LB100, with many firms seeing double-digit revenue increases alongside solid PEP growth.

‘The market’s been really strong this last year,’ said Browne Jacobson chief operating officer Sarah Walker-Smith, whose firm saw 2015/16 revenues move up 9% to £64m. ‘We’re still trying to work out what the post-Brexit implications are going to be.’

For example, Bristows announced a 12% increase in revenue to £42.5m, with PEP up 24% to £486,000, while pensions boutique Sacker & Partners’ revenue was up 14% to almost £27m.

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