Legal Business Blogs

‘We can’t grumble’: Osborne Clarke looks to capitalise on double-digit growth streak

Osborne Clarke (OC)’s leadership duo had two reasons to party in Brussels overnight: it has been five years since the firm opened an office there, and the latest financial results confirmed a five-year average of double-digit revenue growth.

OC posted double-digit growth in both global and UK revenue for the 2017/18 financial year, up 14% to €273m and 15% to £139.3m respectively. Growth rates for both businesses are ahead of last year’s 12% and 7% increases, although down on growth from the year before that.

UK net profit grew 17% to £61.2m, while profit per equity partner (PEP) jumped from £642,000 to £711,000. Its cash resources were steady at £23.1m.

OC UK managing partner Ray Berg told Legal Business the firm had seen consistent performance across all its practice groups and sectors in what he called strong market conditions.

The UK accounted for roughly 58% of the firm’s revenue for the second year running, down slightly from the year before that. Berg said this was about the right split after a period of international expansion.

‘We obviously want to continue to grow the business consistently across all of the offices but we’ve got to a position now where –yes – the UK is still the largest but you can see we’ve got a significant international business as well.

‘We’re beneficiaries of that in the UK, and not just from international workflows, but it also gives us a credence in the UK market with clients we didn’t have before.’

OC has been adding global offices over the last five years, and in the past year opened in Sweden and Shanghai, the latter under the name Zhang Yu & Partners. Simon Beswick, the firm’s international chief executive, told Legal Business attention would shift to growing the operations it had set up.

‘The game for us now is all about adding strength and depth in all of those offices. It’s not going to be about new office openings but what you should be hearing about is adding partners and adding people in those offices, as well as clients and work wins.’

The firm added 32 partners last year – including 15 in the UK – through lateral hires and internal promotions. In the UK it was appointed to the Department for Transport panel for the first time and was reappointed to panels for the Pension Protection Fund and Vodafone.

It also plans to invest in its OC Solutions business, which works on client-specific issues, to more jurisdictions. The team of about ten in the UK and a couple more in Germany has worked on about six projects – including developing a cloud-based platform for Vodafone’s property legal work – and has about as many on the go at the moment.

The key question for OC, however, will be how it can maintain the momentum which has seen it be one of only three firms in the current UK top 100 to have more than doubled its revenue organically since 2012.

Speaking from that Brussels office, which has grown from seven lawyers to 25 since it opened, Berg agreed: ‘That’s the challenge. We’ve continued to set the bar very high for ourselves. The firm continues to grow and get bigger and it is really important we maintain our culture.’

Beswick added: ‘Brexit will at some point change those market conditions but it’s good all around our business at the moment. We can’t grumble.’

For more on the rise of Osborne Clarke over the past ten years, see ‘Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade’