Top lawyers show signs of recovery

Marion Dakers
THE UK’s top 100 law firms enjoyed a minor resurgence at the start of 2010, as fee income and chargeable hours increased in the three months to April, according to figures out today.

While the revival has not generated the fees seen before the banking crisis, fee income grew by an average of 4.6 per cent, and chargeable hours by 8.3 per cent, said Deloitte’s quarterly legal sector survey.

Annual fee income was down 1.3 per cent on last year, reflecting the work drought earlier in the year.

The top ten firms, which were hit most by a slowdown in City and financial work during the recession, have bounced back with a 4.3 per cent rise in fees earned and 12.2 per cent more chargeable hours.

Those firms also saw fees per fee earner jump by 11.1 per cent compared to the same quarter last year.

Overall productivity rose by 3.2 per cent, in a sign that redundancies earlier in the year have led to remaining staff picking up the slack.

Jeremy Black, partner in Deloitte’s professional practices group, said: “The results suggest that the financial year has ended more positively than it started for many law firms, though it is against a backdrop of a much quieter year previously.

“Figures for the full year show that it is the largest ten firms that have been affected most by the challenging market conditions, as compared with flat revenues for smaller firms who tend to have more balanced portfolios,” he said.

“The survey also highlighted the pricing pressures faced by firms with lower recovered rates across firms in all of the size categories,” he added.

Deloitte’s quarterly survey is distributed to clients in the legal sector and acts as a snapshot of the industry.