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British firms report substantial losses

British firms report substantial losses

Major British law firms have followed US trends reporting substantial falls in revenue, while central European firms have faired slightly better.

MAJOR British law firms have followed US trends reporting substantial falls in revenue, while central European firms have faired slightly better. 

UK top tier firm, Ashurst, has posted a seven per cent drop in turnover for the 2008-09 financial year, with revenue falling to £301 million (AUD$600m) on last year’s value of £323m (AUD$645m). 

The firm has declined to release a figure for profits per equity partner (PEP) until the figures have been audited, however, the figure is likely to be substantially down on last year’s £1.04m (AUD$2m) mark, reports Legal Week. 

The results come only a year after the firm expanded into Hong Kong and the US market.

Meanwhile, fellow UK firm, Eversheds, reported a 6 per cent drop in turnover and a double-digit decline in (PEP).  Revenue dropped at the top 10 UK law firm from £390m (AUD$780m) in 2007-08 to £366 (AUD$712m) for the most recent financial year, while PEP for the same period fell by 27 per cent. 

Eversheds chief executive, Bryan Hughes, said that this represented a “satisfactory” outcome in light of market conditions. 

He added: “Many of our clients have suffered tremendously from the effects of the credit crunch and we have shared their pain. We were one of the first law firms to act by way of response to the decline in commercial activity and undertook a significant restructuring programme, which saw 16 per cent of our workforce leave the business and the closure of our Norwich office.”

The firm has conducted three rounds of redundancies during the year, with more than 80 lawyers losing their jobs as a result.

Separately, the firm is hoping to defer 31 out of 73 trainees set to join over the next year. To deter the new starters, due to join in September 2009 or March 2010, the firm has offered a £5000(AUD$10000) cash incentive to the lawyers.

The only good news to come from the latest financial reports was from central European branch of Lovells, which posted double-digit turnover growth as the Euro's dramatic rise over the financial year helped lift the firm’s sterling-denominated revenues. 

Preliminary results for the 2008-09 year show that turnover jumped 11 per cent to £531m (AUD$1bn), representing an 11 per cent rise. The increase is largely attributed to the strength of the euro and dollar against the pound, which Lovells estimates boosted turnover by around ten per cent, however, profits per equity partner (PEP) fell by 11.4 per cent.

The results are also the first time that Lovells’ Europe practice has generated more than its UK office, with the European network accounting for 43 per cent of billings compared to London’s 42 per cent. 

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