Magic Circle law firms rule UK’s top 100

Elizabeth Fournier
TOTAL revenues at the UK’s top 100 law firms hit £14.27bn in 2010-11, a four per cent increase from the previous year and a return to growth after declining turnovers since 2008.

Profit at the biggest firms hit £4.3bn – also up four per cent from the £4.15bn in 2009-10, while the overall profit margin remained flat at 30 per cent, according to The Lawyer’s latest UK 100 survey.

Magic circle firm Clifford Chance, which in the past year has worked on London listings for both Glencore and DP World, retained its top spot as the UK’s largest firm by revenue, reporting a three per cent increase in income for the past year to hit £1.2bn.

The firm, run by managing partner David Childs, also re-entered the million club with profits per equity partner (PEP) topping £1.005m, up from last year’s £933,000.

But it wasn’t enough to knock City favourite Slaughter and May off its perch as home to the UK’s top-earning lawyers, with PEP at the firm hitting £1.9m – up 0.5 per cent from 2009-10. Due to the lockstep pay system, where partners are paid according to their length of service, the highest earners at the firm took home £2.1m last year.

Though Clifford Chance’s revenues topped the table, rival firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s impressive 47.7 per cent margin means it holds the title for richest firm in the City, despite an eight per cent drop in profits since last year. Net profit at the firm fell from £589m to £544m, but on revenues that remained flat at £1.14bn.

The Lawyer survey also covers barristers’ chambers, with Temple-based Brick Court Chambers heading up the list of the country’s biggest earners as revenues rose from £42.5m in 2009-10 to £47m over the last year.

But the barristers with the largest paychecks are the residents of Wilberforce Chambers, where average earnings per lawyer were £800,000.

New entrants to the solicitors’ list include volume insurance firm Parabis Law and Yorkshire firm Minster Law.

Parabis raced up the charts, debuting in the top 100 at number 29 with revenues of £100m. It also posted PEP of £3.1m, but is structured in such a way that it cannot be compared to the more traditional corporate firms.

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