This year’s Legal Business 100 (LB100) has seen the dynamics of the UK legal market turn on its head as national-driven law firms outperformed those at the top of the table, including the Magic Circle.
Overall, total revenue for the LB100 in the financial year 2014/15 is down 1% to £20.64bn, while lawyer headcount has also decreased – down 2% to 64,024. But, these figures mask the positive performance from firms ranked 26-50, with average turnover up 6% to £112m. While revenue per lawyer (RPL) was down 3% to £248,000, profits were up – with profits per equity partner (PEP) seeing a double-digit increase of 10% to £453,000.
Only three firms out of the second 25 saw revenues dip, with top performers including Stephenson Harwood, which enjoyed an increase in revenue of 20% to £145.2m, while PEP soared 40% to £746,000.
Meanwhile those firms that have focused attention on international markets had more of a subdued year. Average turnover was down 2% to £639m for firms ranked 1-25 in the LB100 though mean PEP saw modest growth of 4% to £783,000. Of the Magic Circle, Allen & Overy was the top performer, with turnover up 4% to £1.281bn.
Although some firms inside this bracket performed well – notably Pinsent Masons, which saw PEP increase 33% to £538,000 and turnover rise 12% to £362.4m – others including Norton Rose Fulbright and Ashurst saw turnover decline, while Eversheds and Bird & Bird posted flat results.
Eversheds chief executive Bryan Hughes said it was hard to assess the market based on revenue growth: ‘There is no clear market trend because when you see lots of mergers and consolidation it is hard to see what is organic and what is just aggregation. It is fair to say that some firms have on the revenue line got bigger growth than us, the reasons for that I’m not sure.’
The second half of this year’s LB100, which is made up of a majority of national and regional firms, saw a decrease in average turnover, down 5% to £37m. There were some strong performances from individual firms, including South-West firm Foot Anstey, which saw turnover rise 16% to £32m and PEP increase by 14% to £300,000.
For this year analysis of the Legal Business 100 see: The LB 100 2015 – Through the looking glass