Legal Business Blogs

‘Outcome still satisfactory’: revenue, profit and PEP drop at Macfarlanes as Mishcon continues growth

Macfarlanes has today (24 July) posted results that show declines in turnover, profit, and PEP for the past financial year. Turnover dropped 2% to £296.6m, while operating profit fell 6% to £151.4m. The decline in PEP was steepest: a fall of 16% took it to £2.1m.

The results mean an end to a  12-year streak of growth that saw its PEP surge past its rivals, with last year’s £2.49m placing it behind just Slaughter and May and Stewarts in the list of firms with the fastest-growing PEP in our 2022 LB100.

‘The 2022/23 financial year proved a more challenging year for our firm due to difficult market conditions although the outcome was still satisfactory,’ said senior partner Sebastian Prichard Jones in a statement.

‘After the exceptional impact of the pandemic, which had a positive effect on our financial performance, in a number of respects this was a year of consolidation. This included an increase in our equity partnership by 10%, which had what we anticipate to be a short-term impact on our PEP figure. This is an investment we were pleased to make. After taking a pause for breath in 2022/23, we remain in a strong position and are confident we will move forward again this year.’

The increase in equity partner numbers offsets the drop in PEP somewhat. And the reference to a difficult 2022 after an exceptional 2021 is well taken: there are few firms who have made similar claims as they announce their latest sets of financial results, with Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, and Ashurst all recording dips in PEP. Macfarlanes is not the only firm to record a dip in turnover over the past financial year, with Hogan Lovells posting a 7% decline in February.

The picture painted by Mishcon de Reya was more positive. The firm posted financial results that saw total revenue increase by 10% to £255m. While slower than last year’s 23% increase, this continues a positive trend that has seen the firm continue to grow despite setbacks including a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) fine and a failed IPO.

Overall profit has increased  22% to £93m, though the firm notes that the increase in profit was a much more modest 6% if IPO costs were excluded from the previous year’s figures.

Mishcon reported overall profit as a lone metric for the first time this year, describing profit per equity partner (PEP) as ‘too narrow, short term and misleading as a metric for a business as diverse as the MDR Group, which now accommodates both a traditional law firm and many start-ups.’

Group chief financial officer Matt Hotson explained further: ‘Our goal is create long term value – for our clients, our people and the society in which we operate. PEP is not a metric which is helpful in this context nor is it useful for a business like ours with a diversified offering of legal and non-legal services.’

The completion of Mishcon’s merger with Taylor Vinters in January 2023 brought it to a total of more than 220 partners. The firm reported around 80 equity partners, which would place  PEP at £1.16m – up almost 11% on last year’s £1.05m, and above its previous high-water mark of £1.1m, set in 2017.

Mishcon showed another year of impressive growth in its consultancy and advisory work, reporting an 81% growth in non-legal revenue. The firm was keen to stress, though, that the overwhelming majority of its revenue still came from its core legal services. Performance across practice areas was ‘pretty even across the firm’, said managing partner James Libson. ‘Even though one may have expected real estate to slow down, it kept its momentum all the way through to year-end. Corporate suffered a little in Q4, but the rest were solid.

‘One sees dispute resolution do better, or at least act as a hedge, in recessionary times. But there’s been a real lag in that this time around, as so much protection has been put into the system. Still, we’re seeing an increase coming through, and we expect that to accelerate over the next year.’

The firm’s strategic focus will be on bedding in its merger. ‘The innovation and early-stage market in Oxford and Cambridge is very important to us’, said Libson. The firm will also continue to extend its Asian offering, including building out its Singapore office and continuing its association with Karas So  in Hong Kong. ‘At the moment it’s a litigation offering,’ said Libson. We’ve brought in three private client partners, one in family and two in tax. Our aim is for that office to reflect the balance of our overall Asia offering, which will focus on litigation, private client, and corporate restructuring for family-owned businesses.’

More broadly, Mishcon also intends to explore options to raise capital. ‘The IPO market remains pretty closed’, explained Hotson. ‘It’s not something we’re actively looking at right now. But we have a strategic view to increasing our access to capital. We would potentially do more deals like we did with Taylor Vinters, which sometimes need more capital to make work. And we need to invest in other things like tech as well.’

Hotson also pointed to the increased availability of litigation funding as an area of opportunity for the firm: ‘We have a medium-term need for increased capital. How we resolve that need is something we debate from time to time, though there’s not  a huge amount of urgency. It’s not constraining our ability to grow now.

‘We explored the IPO as an enabling strategy to allow us to deliver growth. The listed law firm market is a very limited market. Even the private equity law firm market is not very mature. But we think we’ll see more firms take capital in, because there are things they can do with that capital. We may well be one of those.’