Burges Salmon has become the latest firm to defy market uncertainty in the face of the coronavirus pandemic as it posted double-digit revenue growth to pass the £100m turnover milestone for the first time.
A strong set of 2019/20 results for the Bristol-based firm saw revenue grow 11% from £94.6m to £104.9m as operating profit increased by a comparable 11%. Also, the firm’s reporting period runs until the end of April, encompassing some six weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown and fallout.
However, profit per equity partner (PEP) was more subdued, rising only 1% from £443,000 the previous year to £446,000, thanks to a substantial uptick in the number of equity partners at the firm.
Speaking to Legal Business, managing partner Roger Bull was suitably ebullient about Burges Salmon’s financial position and how it has adapted to remote working. ‘We have invested in technology and have had agile working for several years, so people were used to working from home anyway. There was a bit of catching up on the business services side with things like billing remotely, but within two weeks of lockdown that had been ironed out.’
He also emphasised the firm’s continued investment in new partners, having promoted five lawyers to partner in 2019 and made six promotions this year, not to mention hiring banking partner Stuart McMillan from DLA Piper to its newly established Edinburgh office last October.
‘There was no freeze in recruitment so we have had to integrate people, including a new cohort of trainees, remotely,’ said Bull. ‘We had been having hybrid meetings, which were a combination of people being in the room and other dialling in remotely, but now following the government’s advice we will all be working from home again unless it’s absolutely essential.’
Burges Salmon is two years into a three-year growth strategy, which Bull said is working well but has become subject to review, given the unforeseen market challenges of 2020.
Said Bull: ‘We thought about extending the three-year strategy in light of coronavirus but in the last few months decided instead on a strategy renewal to start in May next year.’
There are three key elements to the firm’s strategy: growing core sectors including energy, private wealth, healthcare, transport and infrastructure and core practices of corporate, projects and litigation; the preferred firm network in the US and Europe; and expanding the UK business in the form of the new Edinburgh office. The Scottish office now boasts 20 lawyers, including five partners, with plans to grow further.
Said Bull: ‘Referral work has led to revenue more than doubling in the last two years. The US is the largest market for referrals, followed by Europe, especially Germany, then France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Our UK coverage has been enhanced with our Edinburgh office. It has been a successful enterprise and a part of our revenue success.’
In spite of uncertainty of how the pandemic will play out, Bull concluded on an optimistic note: ‘Having had a strong last year, not carrying external debt, strong cash flows and resilient sectors all put us in a strong position to withstand a downturn. We need to stay client-focused and market-aligned. We need to get through Covid, work with clients and look after our people.’