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Despite it being summer, these are still dark days.
Our story earlier this month (12 July) revealing a half-billion-pound reduction in the total revenue generated by the UK’s top 30 law firms underlined how hard they were hit in 2009-10.
The truth is that things haven’t improved much. And now that August is almost upon us, most transactionally focused firms are pinning their hopes of a decent bounce-back firmly on a resurgence in deal activity in the autumn.
All of which puts a little context into Eversheds’ decision to pay its staff a bonus for the first time since the start of the recession. The firm is shelling out a total of £2m in bonuses for its lawyers and staff, or £1,000 each, after it hit its profit targets. Surely, if it’s green shoots you’re looking for, here they are.
Eversheds is after all the firm that fired more people than any other rival over the past couple of years. It’s virtually in a class of its own on our online Legal Job Watch redundancy table with 735 layoffs. The next closest is Allen & Overy with 247.
Of course, there’s already a precedent to shore up hopes of a genuine return to form. Last month Watson Farley & Williams announced that it is awarding a one-off bonus to all its staff after the firm surpassed its budget last year.
But at Eversheds other factors have to be taken into account. Such as the 28 per cent increase in average profit per equity partner (PEP) it posted for the past financial year, from £404,000 to £517,000.
When we reported that figure back in May (28 May) it generated a wave of comments, most of which focused on the benefit the firm’s redundancy programme had had on its results.
To be fair, when it reported in May a 28 per cent increase in PEP looked exceptional. Now, after Travers Smith, LG and Shoosmiths reported PEP rises of 53, 63 and 70 per cent respectively, it looks pretty low rent.
But it doesn’t entirely remove the feeling that, with the enormous number of redundancies Eversheds has made, its extremely grand handout might be looked at by the recipients as less a bonus and more a survivor’s premium.
Still, those getting the extra cash in their accounts next month aren’t likely to complain.