However big firms are being forced to raise pay sharply in an attempt to retain young lawyers who are unhappy with the profession’s long-hours culture and who increasingly view the lifestyle in banking and other fields as more attractive.
Though firms are bullish about their external growth strategies, they are concerned about the internal fall-out from the surge in business as a growing number of junior staff shun the traditional career path that leads from training to partnership.
“Law firms are having a good time,” said David Childs, managing partner of Clifford Chance, the biggest UK-based firm. “The issue is finding enough lawyers.”
Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the three largest firms in the Magic Circle, have all just made limited financial disclosures that reveal sharp rises in their profitability per equity partner. Profits per partner rose 19 per cent at Freshfields, 24 per cent at Clifford Chance and 26 per cent at Linklaters, where they reached £1.06m.