The age of turbulence has only just begun for the UK’s top 100 firms

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Respectable, yes, but 2012/13 was a tough year, even by the post-Lehman standards law firm leaders have become accustomed to. While a frantic run of consolidation and international expansion pushed revenue up 8% to £19.1bn, like-for-like growth was far more subdued.

On all objective measures of productivity and profitability, there were further slides, even before accounting for inflation. Back-of-the envelope calculations indicate that the UK’s top 100 law firms are about 25-30% off their boom-time highs in real terms underlying profitability.

In trying to respond to that pressure there has been a genuine shift in gravity among the UK’s top 25 over the last half decade, with the group reborn in truly globalised form. When people used to talk about law being global, until recently they really meant six or so firms. Now it’s 20-plus. With SJ Berwin to join King & Wood Mallesons, and Ashurst this autumn to vote on full integration with its Australian partner, this group is to a considerable extent operating in a different space to the rest of the LB100. Average revenue in this group is just short of £600m, against £98m in the second quartile, while underlying profitability is nearly double that of the next 25. Continue reading “The age of turbulence has only just begun for the UK’s top 100 firms”

Financial results 2013: Burness Paull (minus the Williamsons) outstrips Scottish rivals with post-merger results

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In the first few months since its eye-catching merger at the beginning of December last year, Burness Paull has climbed the ranks to post revenue and profit growth that contrasts starkly with the fortunes of the traditionally elite Scottish firms in recent years.

The 57-partner firm, formed following the union of Burness in Edinburgh and Glasgow and Aberdeen’s Paull & Williamsons, recorded a turnover of £38.7m, up 59% on legacy firm Burness’ turnover last year of £24.3m. The firm has also rebranded as Burness Paull, dropping the Williamsons part of its post-merger name. Continue reading “Financial results 2013: Burness Paull (minus the Williamsons) outstrips Scottish rivals with post-merger results”

Financial results 2013: Scottish elite numbers make grim reading as Maclay reveals results

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Following Dundas & Wilson’s announcement last week that its revenues and profits had tumbled dramatically for the second year running, the latest figures from Scotland’s two other elite firms shows it is not alone in suffering from poor financial performance.

Maclay Murray & Spens (MMS) has managed to outdo the beleaguered Dundas in terms of underperformance, with revenues down 13% to £40.9m from £46.9m last year, while profits have dropped by 24% to £9.7m, equating to a fall in PEP of £59,000 to £211,000 – down 22%. These figures are marginally worse than Dundas, which saw revenues dip 11% and profits fall 21%. Continue reading “Financial results 2013: Scottish elite numbers make grim reading as Maclay reveals results”

Dundas & Wilson woes continue as it loses private equity duo to Mishcons

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Dundas & Wilson has lost private equity partners Simon Sale and Nadim Meer to Mishcon de Reya, the latest in a series of partner exits from the Scottish firm.

Sale and Meer will move to 300-lawyer Mishcon, along with senior associate Allison Keyse, once the terms of their exits have been agreed. They will join current Mishcon private equity partners Kevin McCarthy and Andrew Rimmington and the intention is that they will bring clients with them. Before joining Dundas, both worked at Hammonds (now Squire Sanders).

Continue reading “Dundas & Wilson woes continue as it loses private equity duo to Mishcons”

Semple Fraser Appoints administrators

Scotland’s Semple Fraser has gone into administration, with Tom MacLennan and Kenny Craig, partners with accountants RSM Tenon, appointed joint administrators.

The move comes less than a week after the firm announced its intention to appoint administrators on 6 March. Although a raft of firms have stepped in to take over parts of Semple Fraser’s business, 62 people at the firm, including lawyers and support staff, have been made redundant.

‘It is with great regret that after having considered every possible option to secure the future of the business it was clear that administration is the only option,’ said Simon Etchells, managing partner of the firm.

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LB100 Scotland – Flying the Saltire

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One firm in particular again stands out from the morass of misery that has beset the Scottish legal market in recent years, as it did last year: Brodies.

Brodies has recorded one of the highest real-term turnover increases this year in the entire LB100: up 16% to £42.8m, leapfrogging Shepherd and Wedderburn, which has remained static. This is no flash in the pan either: Brodies five-year revenue compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is 7%, easily the highest in the peer group and all achieved without a merger.

The firm is also highly profitable. Net income is up 30%, again the highest in the group, putting profit per lawyer (PPL) at a healthy £50,000.

Continue reading “LB100 Scotland – Flying the Saltire”