It is 2025 and the view from the nominal head office of the leading City law firm remains as uncertain as it has for the last 15 years. Not that there hasn’t been progress at what would once have been called a Magic Circle firm. With revenues of £2.5bn, the firm now generates only 30% of its income from the UK. That isn’t much more than it earns from its US practice, which was bolstered four years ago by a takeover of an AmLaw 200 practice, and the decision to reshape its executive and partnership to put London and New York at its heart. The notion that it needed to become a true Anglo-American institution was a culture shock but few seriously question it now.
The old lockstep is long gone – top earners in London, New York and Asia earn five times that of junior partners or those working in less profitable jurisdictions and there are two gateways to negotiate, though it’s still a long way from eat-what-you-kill. Profit per equity partner at £1.9m isn’t that much higher than a decade before but top earners take home well over £3m a year.