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‘There has been a hardening of the market’: Bond Dickinson turnover and PEP drops 3%

Following the trend of an altogether tougher year for the UK mid-market, national player Bond Dickinson has seen both its turnover and profit per equity partner (PEP) dip by 3% for the financial year 2015/16.

Turnover stands at £104m, down from last year’s figure of £107m, while PEP is £275,000 compared to £284,000 for the financial year 2014/15. The firm says the figures are a result of investment in the business and people in order to be in the best position for long term growth.

Speaking to Legal Business, Bond Dickinson managing partner Jonathan Blair said: ‘There has been a hardening of the market, there is no doubt at all about that. And you can’t operate in a bubble. We had a huge IT investment programme last year which was around [legal software] Aderant and the reality is that has had an impact on your top line – in theory it shouldn’t but in reality it does because those projects are huge and for us it was huge. That was a significant and worthwhile investment but did have an impact.

‘We had put in place a flat year in terms of budget because of that – not because we weren’t ambitious but because we knew what we were doing in terms of investment. As a business we are in a strong position in terms of what we can control. I am less confident about what the marketplace is doing and the actual activity that is going on in the sector. I think it is going to be a tough year for the sector.’

According to Blair (pictured), both the real estate and private wealth teams have seen solid growth over the last year due to increased work from existing clients and panel wins including British Gas, TSB, Barclays and Taylor Wimpey.

Additionally the firm has continued to make strides internationally over the last financial year, securing an exclusive strategic alliance with full-service US firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in June. The deal means that Womble Carlyle, a mid-market firm with a large offering in Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as a further 14 offices across the US, will refer all UK work to Bond Dickinson and vice-versa.

Womble Carlyle, which has around 550 lawyers and 300 partners, has been in a non-exclusive referral basis with Bond Dickinson for around six years predominantly in the corporate space, however this new arrangement is likely to boost both firms’ fintech and private wealth businesses.

In December 2014, Bond Dickinson entered into its first strategic alliance with German firm Redeker Sellner Dahs as part of a growing international push. Addressing Bond Dickinson’s international strategy was a key priority for Blair after the merger of Newcastle-based Dickinson Dees and Bristol-headquartered Bond Pearce went live on 1 May 2013.

In contrast, fellow national player TLT announced strong results for the financial year 2015/16, posting a 15% increase in turnover to £71.6m while Shoosmiths has seen a more moderate revenue rise 4% to £107m, down on the firm’s double digit growth last year of 10%.