Halliwells first to reveal 09 financials as revenues dip

Halliwells has revealed revenues of £83m in turnover for the 2008-09 financial year, a drop of 4.6 per cent on last year’s total of £87m.

Managing partner Ian Austin cited strong performance in the contentious side of its business, which grew from around £30.5m last year to £34m this year. He also claimed the firm had experienced a high corporate deal flow which cushioned against the worst excesses of the downturn.

Ian Austin told The Lawyer: “It was a decent performance – it was probably the toughest time a lot of us have experienced in our professional careers. The vast majority of our lawyers are under 37 years old and have never experienced a recession before. To hold onto that level of turnover is pretty good.”

Austin predicted that profitability this year would be in line with last year. At the end of the 2007-08 financial year the north-west firm recorded average profit per equity partner of £400,000 and a profit margin of 23 per cent. Austin said this was as a result of “doing work more efficiently” and undertaking “certain measures to reduce costs”.

Halliwells has launched four rounds of redundancies since the downturn began, with up to 75 jobs affected among fee-earners and support staff.

Meanwhile the firm has announced a management buy-out of its volume business – HL Interactive – which specialises in credit services, repossessions and debt recovery, remortgage and residential conveyancing.

Under the arrangement a team led by HL Interactive chief executive Matt Wightman bought out the business, with funding from the Co-operative Bank. Halliwells has retained a 10 per cent interest.

“HL Interactive was set up with the aim of selling the business on to management, “ commented Austin. “There is still going to be some limited crossover to give clients the confidence that we are behind them.”

HL Interactive currently occupies part of 15,000 square feet offices in King Street, central Manchester which Halliwells picked up as a result of its merger with James Champman in 2006. Halliwells is currently looking for a tenant for at least one additional floor of that building.

Elsewhere the firm is posed to take on an extra 5,500 square feet in Sheffield and 3,000 square feet in Liverpool.