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Berrymans Lace Mawer has made profitability its priority in a year when turnover dipped 11 per cent from £33m to £29.5m
Against this fall in revenue, the national firm increased average profits per partner by 15 per cent, from £122,000 to £144,000. Although this figure is still down on the heights of two years ago, when partners could expect average profits of £157,000, the firm has shrugged off a difficult couple of years and seems to be back on track. National senior partner Paul Taylor said: "Firms go through phases. Sometimes it's growth and at others it's consolidation. We have to take control of our destiny." The firm suffered a series of high-profile departures in 2000. These included head of insurance and reinsurance David Wilkinson, who moved to US firm LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae, and professional indemnity partner Gordon Walker, who joined Vizards Staples & Bannister (now Vizards Wyeth). Taylor argued that Berrymans has transferred its focus from high-volume, low-value instructions to more specialised practice areas. He said: "When we were at our peak we did a great deal of bulk work. Partly by design and partly by accident, that isn't the case any longer." The firm lost some of its bulk work from Axa and Norwich Union after both insurers conducted panel reviews last year. The shift away from bulk work requires more bodies but lower charge-out rates. It has helped raise profitability by improving the quality and complexity of the work coming in. It has also kept Berrymans' lawyers happy. Taylor said: "We felt that some of our very good lawyers were being wasted." Growth areas include health and safety, a new defamation practice in London and catastrophic injury. The firm has undertaken a restructuring exercise, focusing on seven core areas - commercial, dispute resolution, human resources, insurance, local government, property and transport. The local government practice has picked up a panel win from the Metropolitan Police Force. Berrymans appointed professional negligence partner Charlotte Capstick to the post of London senior partner and has hired Philip Vallance QC from 4-5 Gray's Inn Square as an in-house counsel.