Freshfields is City's top legal firm

FRESHFIELDS Bruckhaus Deringer has overtaken rival Clifford Chance to clinch the top spot among the UK&rsquo;s highest-grossing law firms.<br /><br />Profit per equity partner &ndash; considered the best measure of a law firm&rsquo;s profitability &ndash; remained broadly constant for the 2008/09 financial year at &pound;1.44m, outperforming rivals who saw profits slump.<br /><br />Revenue hit &pound;1.29bn, an increase of nine per cent from &pound;1.18bn last year, largely due to currency fluctuations.<br /><br />Clifford Chance, by contrast, reported a 37 per cent fall in earnings per equity partner earlier this week, from nearly &pound;1.2m last year to &pound;733,000, while turnover fell five per cent to &pound;1.26bn.<br /><br />Freshfields&rsquo; earnings were boosted by its work for the Bank of England on the bailout of the banking industry, as well as its roles advising thriving retailer Tesco and acting on the administration of Woolworths.<br /><br />Chief executive Ted Burke said the firm was &ldquo;fortunate to have come through a challenging year in relatively good shape&rdquo;.<br /><br />But he added that the firm expected the next financial year to be more difficult. Law firms traditionally lag behind the rest of the economy in terms of financial performance.<br /><br />Freshfields&rsquo; &ldquo;magic circle&rdquo; rival Linklaters will release its results today, while Allen &amp; Overy is expected to reveal its own financial performance next week.<br />