UK’s top law firms grow profits amid consolidation in the sector

THE UK’s 100 largest law firms made combined profits of £5.8bn in 2012-13, according to new data, an eight per cent increase on the previous year amid a flurry of M&A activity among the sector.

Research out this week from Legal Business magazine also shows that the top segment of the UK’s legal market billed its clients a total of £19.1bn in the most recent financial year, and that the sector’s top paid equity partners – at London firm Slaughter and May – took home £2.55m each. City firms DLA Piper and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were among the best performers, both boosting average profits per equity partner (PEP) by eight per cent.

Away from the big hitters private client specialist Mishcon de Reya had a particularly impressive year, growing revenues by 21 per cent in 2012-13 to £88.4m and PEP by 20 per cent to £840,000.

“It is interesting to note that it is firms outside the Magic Circle of law firms that are driving the sector’s growth,” said Legal Business national editor Mark McAteer. “Magic Circle firms ... whilst in rude health with combined revenues of £5.3bn, managed growth of just one per cent.”

Consolidation in the industry has been rife in recent months as firms look to grow internationally. In June Norton Rose merged with US law firm Fulbright & Jaworski, and last month SJ Berwin partners voted through a $1bn merger with KWM.

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