Fees soar for legal eagles, as law firms reveal they are modestly optimistic about their future

Hayley Kirton
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Fee income is flying high in the legal sector (Source: Getty)

Lawyers had reason to celebrate today, after a report revealed that fees at the top 100 law firms rose by 5.4 per cent in the year to April.

The report by professional services firm Deloitte revealed that fee income in the last quarter of the financial year increased by an average of six per cent year-on-year.

Firms are also feeling good about the future, predicting on average a four per cent increase to fee income for the year ahead.

A boost in the number of lawyers the top 100 firms have on their roster probably helped to pick up fees, as fee-earner headcount increased by 2.6 per cent across the firms surveyed

Meanwhile, the average fees achieved per fee earner were £257,000, up 2.7 per cent on the year before.

Read more: Why conveyancing is where it's at for legal eagles

In particular, average fees per fee earner in the top 26 to 50 firms outpaced those of the top 11 to 25, with the former pulling in £260,000 per fee earner and the latter only £248,000.

"The fact that the average fees per fee earner in the 26-50 size category was higher than that achieved in the 11-25 size category is a clear sign of the changing dynamics within the sector," said Jeremy Black, partner at Deloitte. "Over the last couple of years, merger activity in the sector and large differences in the growth rates achieved by firms, along with changes in business models and technology, have had a significant impact on what has historically been a relatively stable sector."

Recent notable tie-ups in the legal sector include Irwin Mitchell's merger with Thomas Eggar and DWF's acquisition of German commercial law firm BridgehouseLaw. Meanwhile, BLP and Greenberg Traurig had a near miss when the firms ended their merger talks in March after being unable to find "common ground".