200 nuggets of gold

Catrin Griffiths

Oh, frabjous day. With this week’s issue we are publishing The Lawyer UK200 Annual Report, a research project that grows with every passing year. In this supplement you’ll find a data carnival, including analysis of growth trends, current pricing strategies and property exposure. Because we know how valuable this research is for law firm decision-makers and strategy consultants, we’re making the extended data sets available as a paid-for report, which you can access online at www.thelawyer.com. Then you can immerse yourself in the figures to your hearts’ content.

As we explored in our preview issue earlier this year (The Lawyer, 13 August), law firms have increasingly convergent growth strategies in order to convince their clients they’re big enough to handle the work. Vereins and international groupings are now material factors among the larger internationalist firms, while the UK mid-tier is convulsed with consolidation mania.

Growing, merging, competing; all of this needs management infrastructure, and that infrastructure needs the metrics contained in The Lawyer UK200, from profit per lawyer to property cost per fee-earner and beyond. Only a few partnerships can escape this creeping corporatisation, but the need for management information is not limited to solicitors. The bar, which is in the happy position of being a source of high-value advice with a low cost base, is undergoing a strategic revolution. Expansion abroad means time and money; Asia launches don’t come cheap.

For all the talk about new market entrants such as Riverview Law, which is challenging pricing assumptions on both sides of the profession, there is already a disruptive model at work – direct access. Just look at Monckton Chambers, whose turnover rose more than any other set in the Bar Top 30 – 22 per cent to £21m last year. Those revenues would put it comfortably within the top 100 law firms. Over the last five years, Monckton’s revenues have increased by 59 per cent. As Katy Dowell reveals on page 20, 60 per cent of its turnover now comes direct from in-house lawyers. That 60 per cent equates to nearly £13m of billings and is a shift that has gone largely unremarked until now. The competition between law firms and the bar may start to become a little more frenetic.