LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – The top 100 legal firms in Britain collected more than £12bn in fees over the last year and the best-paid partners netted more than £2m each from their share of profits, it was disclosed yesterday, the Telegraph reports.
Profits jumped 19pc to £4.19bn on the back of a legal boom stimulated by the merger and acquisition bonanza, the phenomenal growth of London as a centre for capital markets, the strength of sterling and the contribution from overseas branches.
Starting salaries for a newly qualified lawyer joining the 50 biggest London firms rose 14pc on average close to the US level of £100,000 while the profits surge meant the 6,653 partners with equity in their businesses typically received £448,000 each as their share of the surplus.
The huge growth, charted in the magazine Legal Business, shows fees charged by the top 100 have jumped from £2.7bn a decade ago to £12.25bn while the number of lawyers working for the elite group has grown by 130pc to 46,000. But the number of partners with equity in the business is up by a more modest 26pc.
Clifford Chance maintains its place at the top of the league table with turnover up 16pc to £1.2bn, profits up 31pc to £374m with equity partners achieving a 25pc jump to £1m from their share of profits. The best-paid equity partners, however, were at Slaughter & May where the average jumped 27pc to £1.4m.
However, the party may soon be over. James Baxter, editor of the magazine, says there are signs of a slowdown. “The constant flow of mega deals may not be around much longer,” he says.
Simon Bromwich, managing partner at Ashurst, says the economic climate and experts’ views suggested it is only a matter of time before a downturn hits the legal business.