Comment: Converging on boom-time profits without a boom – the big four now and then

Comment: Converging on boom-time profits without a boom – the big four now and then

They say averages lie, though in my experience not as much as people, but producing an annual report with 2,000 data points as we do with this month’s LB100 means it can be hard even for professional anoraks such as myself to find the nuggets of meaning in the thickets of information.

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Latest US profits show positive early signs

The initial numbers to emerge from the US reporting season indicate a relatively resilient performance in 2012 for the world’s largest legal market.

A series of firms have so far posted headline financial results, including Latham & Watkins, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and White & Case, with the majority achieving growth in profits and fee income.

Latham reported growth of 3.4% with the top five US firm’s revenue hitting $2.23bn, up from $2.15bn for the 2011 year. PEP also grew 7.4% to $2.44m and the firm reported an increase of 2.4% in revenue per lawyer, which hit $1.1m in 2012.

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Legal Business 100 2012: Interactive main table

Legal Business 100 2012: Interactive main table

From merger mania to profit manipulation – the LB100 in 2012 draws on familiar themes from 20 years of law firm financials.

If there’s one thing the last 20 years have taught us at LB, it’s that the legal profession carries on regardless. The UK may have entered into a  double-dip recession despite quantitative easing; the US and a number of European countries may have seen their credit ratings downgraded; M&A may have dried up and the global debt markets may be in stasis, but the UK’s top 100 law firms continue to post record growth and trend-busting profits. The industry has again showed its remarkable resilience and stability.

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Clarke Willmott: running to stand still

Clarke Willmott: running to stand still

Stephen Rosser became Clarke Willmott’s chief executive two years ago as the firm really started to suffer a post-boom hangover. Since then, the bottom line has gone from bad to worse. It’s time for more radical thinking 

Stephen Rosser, Clarke Willmott’s chief executive, ran the London Marathon in 3 hours 59 minutes this year. While there probably aren’t many in law firm management who could run 26.2 miles, let alone in less than four hours, it is perhaps the least of his challenges. Completing a long distance race takes dedication, stamina and the ability to withstand a certain amount of pain – abilities that Rosser will need in abundance if he is to make Clarke Willmott competitive again.

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LB100 2012 – Future Proof

LB100 2012 – Future Proof

From merger mania to profit manipulation – the LB100 in 2012 draws on familiar themes from 20 years of law firm financials.

If there’s one thing the last 20 years have taught us at LB, it’s that the legal profession carries on regardless. The UK may have entered into a  double-dip recession despite quantitative easing; the US and a number of European countries may have seen their credit ratings downgraded; M&A may have dried up and the global debt markets may be in stasis, but the UK’s top 100 law firms continue to post record growth and trend-busting profits. The industry has again showed its remarkable resilience and stability.

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Twenty years on and the numbers still add up

Twenty years on and the numbers still add up

In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected US president; the Maastricht Treaty was signed and Legal Business published the financial data of 35 firms with revenues over £20m. Over the last 20 years, as the information age has developed, total revenues of the 100 largest law firms based in the UK have swelled from £2.7bn to £17.67bn, outperforming the domestic economy.

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LB100 2012 – Behind the Numbers: Profitability Revealed

LB100 2012 – Behind the Numbers: Profitability Revealed

Which firms are the most profitable? In this table we blend together all of our profitability measures, including PEP, profit per lawyer and profit margin, to discover which of the top 100 firms are the most profitable.

The 100 firms have been ranked according to their mean rank on all three measurements.

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Global 100 – Podium Standings

Global 100 – Podium Standings

The world’s 100 largest law firms have faced another challenging year of depressed economic markets and little to no transactional work. So how have they fared? LB finds out

The combined revenues of the 100 biggest law firms in the world reached new heights this year. Setting a five-year Global 100 record, combined turnover came to over $81bn, greater than the Olympian levels the market reached in the boom year of 2007. In broad strokes it has been another year of single digit rises in revenues, profits and lawyer numbers. But with inflation running at around 3% in the UK and the US, performance in real terms has been more muted than those top-line figures suggest. The past financial year was essentially a flat market, a solid performance but nothing to set the world alight. 

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