…despite five-year trend revealing gradual decline in number of owners
Three years after the end of the boom just over half of partners in the top 100 UK law firms have full equity, The Lawyer can reveal.
The number of partners in the top 100 stood at 12,064 in the financial year 2009-10, of whom 6,711 held equity - a ratio of 55 per cent.
However, the long-term trend shows that full partnership and its financial rewards have become more difficult to attain across the top 100, with the proportion of equity partners down from the 2004-05 high of 63 per cent.
The statistics expose a philosophical divide between the minority of firms that have continued to increase their proportion of equity partners and those that have tightened access.
The Lawyer’s research shows that the only major firm to have increased its equity partner ratio in five years is Linklaters, which has shifted by 9.5 per cent.
Managing partner Simon Davies said: “There’s a big difference between a partner and an employee for us, and we felt that ultimately this was the right direction to go in.”
In contrast, Hammonds, which is currently in merger talks with Squire Sanders, has reduced its percentage of equity partners to 37 per cent.
Hammonds managing partner Peter Crossley said: “We decided we had too much equity within the firm and needed to reduce it and also improve our profitability. It’s a combined effort to make equity worth having. It’s about creating a proper aspiration.”
However, Hammonds is by no means the tightest with its equity. That prize goes to Northern firms DWF and Ward Hadaway, both at 22 per cent, while Field Fisher Waterhouse has reduced its equity partner proportion most dramatically in a year, from 41 to 27 per cent.