Brexit negotiations stalling, trade wars looming, the high street hit by a raft of collapses – at first sight, there is plenty to suggest the UK has taken a trip back in time. Yet for those with a finger on the pulse in the City, it will come as no surprise to find this year’s Legal Business 100 (LB100) speaks of a standout year for Britain’s legal elite. Turmoil has mattered very little against the backdrop of booming transactional activity, interest rates near historic lows and the cheap pound.
While commercial lawyers spoke with wary optimism of healthy markets in the summer of 2017, caution progressively turned into bemused enthusiasm as the City realised it was living through its busiest winter for years during a period that seemed to resemble the Winter of Discontent. By spring, some were hailing the best financial year since the banking crisis. This year’s survey confirms that there is some substance to such claims. Continue reading “The LB100 overview: Crisis? What crisis?”
The story of last year’s Legal Business 100 (LB100) was the emergence of a group of mobile mid-tier outfits that were threatening to take the market by storm. For some, that has become a reality, with the pacesetting Fieldfisher surging into the top 25 on the back of another stellar year. For those it left behind in the 26-50 bracket, the going has been generally tougher.
Despite a modest 5% jump in average revenue to £122.6m for the mid-market cohort, there was a 3% slump in average profit per lawyer to £65,000. Average revenue per lawyer also slipped 2% to £267,000, although there was a 3% rise in the average profit per equity partner (PEP) figure to £501,000. Continue reading “LB100 Second 25: The ex-pistols”
With initial post-referendum Brexit shock giving way to pre-breakaway uncertainty, the boutique and mid-market London firms in the second half of the Legal Business 100 are maintaining a brave front in the face of political and economic uncertainty.
Overall the story is encouraging for London firms in the second 50, with total revenue up 6% to £774m, with an average revenue of £40.7m across the 19 City firms in the second – the same number as last year. Average profit per equity partner (PEP) spiked by 12% to £409,000. Continue reading “LB100 Second 50: London stalling?”
Consolidation, planning, investment and ‘cautious optimism’ proved dominant themes for the smaller regional and national firms in this year’s Legal Business 100 (LB100). The 31 non-City firms in the 51-100 bracket grew steadily amid a slow summer and dip in confidence during the 2016/17 financial year. Last year, however, the group’s collective revenue only managed a weak 1% rise to £1.27bn, with an average revenue of £41m. While real estate and construction continue to boom, deal flows are noticeably beginning to slow for many.
While regional firms are typically less productive per capita than London counterparts, that gap has widened. Revenue per lawyer was £181,000, down 8% and much lower than the £264,000 in London. Profits tell a similar story: profit per lawyer down 10% at £38,000, against £80,000 in the City. Continue reading “LB100 Second 50: Regional view – Comfortably numb”
The only firm among London’s big four to have retained its position in the Legal Business 100 table, Clifford Chance (CC) is the second-largest UK-bred shop after DLA Piper, having added £83m to its top line to hit £1.623bn.
But if the 5% uptick in revenue is broadly comparable to Linklaters, Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, it is the 16% surge in profit per equity partner (PEP) to £1.6m where CC has edged ahead of its rivals. Continue reading “LB100 case study: Clifford Chance”
Long-serving managing partner Tim Eyles (pictured) received a nice farewell gift in his last year at the helm of Taylor Wessing, as the firm posted one of the strongest financial performances in the top 25.
The tech-focused shop rode hugely on the boom in transactional activity and the high demand for GDPR advice to grow UK revenue by a solid 12% to £144.6m. Globally, Taylor Wessing – which over the last financial year moved from a looser alliance of international firms into a formal verein structure – broke the £300m barrier after hiking turnover 12% to £301.5m. Continue reading “LB100 case study: Taylor Wessing”
You can always rely on Travers Smith for revenue growth; the City independent has posted its ninth consecutive year of financial expansion. Although, in many ways, the 18% uptick in turnover to £146.9m was a triumphant bounce back from 2016/17’s results, when revenue inched up just 4% against a backdrop of Brexit uncertainty.
The revenue increase is more impressive when considering that only £900,000 of the £146.9m figure was generated overseas – in Travers’ small Paris branch – emphasising the firm’s strength in its domestic market. Continue reading “LB100 case study: Travers Smith”
Things have gone from bad to worse at insurance and shipping specialist Hill Dickinson, as the firm recorded a second consecutive drop in turnover.
Hill Dickinson would have hoped to improve on 2016/17’s less-than-stellar 1% fall in revenue, but this was off the cards when a 5% drop to £96.8m was announced. The impact was softened by a more robust showing in profitability with profit per equity partner rising 22% from £274,000 to £334,000. However, this is largely attributable to the firm cutting its equity partner count from 57 to 47. Continue reading “LB100 case study: Hill Dickinson”
LB100 law firms
The firms that appear in the Legal Business 100 (LB100) are the top 100 law firms in the UK (usually LLP partnerships but also some alternative business structures – see footnotes), ranked by gross fee income generated over the financial year 2017/18 – usually 1 May 2017 to 30 April 2018. We call these the 2018 results. Where firms have identical fee incomes, the firms are ranked according to highest profit per equity partner (PEP).
An overwhelming majority of firms that appear in the LB100 co-operate fully with its compilation (see ‘Transparency’, below) by providing our reporters with the required information. A limited number of firms choose not to co-operate officially with our data collection process and in these circumstances we rely on figures given to us by trusted but anonymous sources. Continue reading “Methodology and notes”