South West firm Clarke Willmott & Clarke has recorded a modest turnover increase of 14 per cent on last year.
Annual figures announced for 2000-2001 show a turnover of £15.7m, compared with £13.6m on last year. David Sedgwick, Clarke Willmott's managing partner, admitted that his firm's increase in turnover is fairly low, but he put it down to several events during the year. The firm closed its Yeovil office in September, moving to new premises in Bristol, a move that took a large chunk out of the firm's resources. The Yeovil shutdown caused two partners to leave, which Sedgwick said meant a loss of work. Following the City's lead, Clarke Willmott hiked up newly-qualified assistant salaries by 18 per cent. They earn £31,000 compared with last year's £25,000. However, equity partner earnings rose considerably at the firm. Last year, partners at the top of equity received £110,000. This rose to £145,000, a rise of 32 per cent. Bottom of equity also received a £23,000 pay rise to £93,000 compared with £70,000 last year. The firm has 24 full-equity partners. They made average profits of £130,000 in 2000-2001, a 17 per cent increase on the previous year. The firm's equity partners billed an average of £650,000 each in fees. Clarke Willmott's housebuilder department, which incorporates commercial property, environment and planning, was the most profitable. Sedgwick said that this is because the department has taken a bigger share of longstanding client work. Property developer Prowtings, which was responsible for 30 per cent of the department's earnings last year, transferred all of its in-house legal work to the firm. Sedgwick is optimistic that the firm's low turnover increase will not be repeated. "We've laid out considerably on premises and salaries this year, which has had a negative short-term effect on the firm's turnover. However, every costly decision we made last year is an investment for our future. We've projected a turnover increase of 21 per cent for the year beginning 1 May 2001, and so far we're on target to achieve this," he said.