Ashurst, Herbies ride out tough year; BLP, Macfarlanes, SJ Berwin succumb

<a class=Ashurst, Herbies ride out tough year; BLP, Macfarlanes, SJ Berwin succumb” />The silver circle has enjoyed mixed fortunes over the past financial year, with Ashurst and Herbert Smith powering ahead, while Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), Macfarlanes and SJ Berwin have faltered.

Travers Smith, the final firm in the group of top-ranked UK-headquartered firms, has yet to announce its figures due to a June year-end.

Ashurst, which released its figures last week (The Lawyer.com, 7 July), has seen its average profit per equity partner (PEP) break the £1m barrier for the first time, putting it on a par with ­Herbert Smith. The figure at the firms was £1.04m.

Ashurst also had a strong showing in turnover terms, with a rise of 17.5 per cent to £323m. This builds on the firm’s excellent performance over the past two years – since the 2004-05 financial year the firm has seen PEP rise by 83 per cent, while turnover has risen 61 per cent during the same period.

This represents a real turnaround for the firm, which just a few years ago was experiencing sliding profitability and muted revenue growth. As managing partner Simon Bromwich said: “It’s been another good 12 months for us.”

For Herbert Smith this year’s figures mark an even greater turnaround, coming as they do on the back of last year’s disappointing 2 per cent fall in PEP. The previous year ;was ;hardly ;more impressive, ;with ;PEP ­inching up by just 4 per cent.

This year’s massive 26 per cent increase in PEP has ensured that Herbert Smith retains its position as a silver circle leader, especially as turnover also jumped by 26 per cent, coming in at £421.8m.

While Ashurst and Herbert Smith have been able to rely on their overseas offices to mitigate against worsening economic conditions at home, BLP, Macfarlanes and SJ Berwin have all suffered.

At BLP, while its revenue has risen by 10 per cent to £186m, PEP has dropped by 6 per cent to £620,000. This is bad news for the firm – although its growth rate slowed last year and PEP only rose by 5 per cent, it has performed reasonably well over the past few years.

At Macfarlanes, which had a strong 2006-07, PEP has remained static, with turnover nudging up by 7 per cent. SJ Berwin’s turnover is up by a respectable 14 per cent, while PEP has increased by 2.4 per cent.

View our Top of the PEPs table here.