Monday 1 July 2019 1:12 am

UK's top 100 law firms report strong year despite final quarter slump

The UK’s top 100 law firms grew fee income seven per cent in the year to 30 April, according to data published today.

The strong performance is a slight dip on last year’s average fee income increase of 7.7 per cent, according to audit firm Deloitte’s quarterly legal sector survey.

Jeremy Black, partner in Deloitte’s professional services practice, said: “Over the course of the year, the UK’s top 100 law firms performed strongly, and the overall level of performance was above what many expected at the start of the year.”

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UK law firms typically operate to a financial year running to 30 April meaning that results reporting season is about to get into full swing. 

Firms to have reported results so far include Fieldfisher, which boosted turnover 17 per cent to £242m, and Stephenson Harwood which grew revenue 12 per cent to £213m.

For the quarter ended 30 April, average fee income for the top 100 grew by three per cent and was primarily achieved through a four per cent increase in fee earner headcount.

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Fees per fee earner actually fell by one per cent in the quarter.

In the final quarter there was a marked difference in performance across the different sizes of firms.

The top ten firms reported the largest increase in fee income (4.5 per cent) and firms ranked 36-50 the lowest (one per cent).

The top ten were the only size category where firms achieved growth in fees per fee earner (two per cent) and an increase in chargeable hours per fee earner (0.6 per cent).

Black said: “The strong year-on-year average fee growth comes despite a mixed performance across the different size categories in the final quarter of the financial year.

“Time will tell as to whether the more modest growth in this quarter is the start of a period of lower growth for the sector, or simply a dip prior to stronger growth in the year ahead.”