The UK’s top 100 law firms have continued to grow despite signs that the economic downturn is beginning to have an impact, according to the figures from Deloitte.
The accountancy firm’s Quarterly Legal Sector Survey showed that law firm fee income rose by an average of 11 per cent in the three months to the end of January 2008, continuing a trend that saw growth rates fall from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent in the previous quarter.
Jeremy Black, an associate partner at Deloitte, said: “The results show that in broad terms, City lawyers continue to be relatively busy, which is extremely positive in the face of some gloomy predictions.”
Jonathan Blake, senior partner of SJ Berwin, said: “Transactional areas have been a bit patchy over the last few months but we are currently very busy throughout the practice including deal teams and contentious departments.”
However, in a sign of a slower market, Deloitte found that the average numbers of hours billed by lawyers had fallen over the quarter.
The survey also showed a continuing polarisation between the revenues of the top 25 law firms, which continue to dominate the market, and the remaining 75.
Average revenues per partner at the top 25 firms rose 3.7 per cent over the last quarter, but the rest reported increases of just 1.6 per cent.
Mark Stewart, managing partner for Clifford Chance’s London finance practice, said: “The market as a whole is going through a slightly quieter period. We’re not immune to it and we have to work harder to get the work in, but we don’t get so affected.”