Like LG (see below), Hill Dickinson has failed to push up its PEP this year.
Expectations are that rather than taking a nosedive, it will remain the same as last year’s £310,000.
And like LG, investment in new headquarters may be part of the explanation. Hill Dickinson moved into new offices at St. Paul’s Square in central Liverpool at the end of last year, which requiring the firm to take out a loan.
It is believed that it is shelling out around £18 per square foot for this new home for over half of its 1,000 staff, spread out over some eight floors.
A negligible overhead compared to similar-sized City firms, but then Hill Dicks isn’t charging the same fees as its City counterparts.
In theory new offices might help a firm’s fortunes take a turn for the better. At the upper end, on-site beauticians, fancy dining and gargantuan lobby areas might attract the workforce, impress clients or scare hacks into writing nice stories.
But as one law firm manager told The Lawyer, firms should draw a line at helicopter pads and marble foyers, or risk alienating clients who wonder how they are bankrolling such opulence.
Not that St.Paul’s Square is particularly opulent. Its more your off-the-shelf corporate law firm HQ: glass-fronted with a big central atrium. Only the view from the top floor of ships majestically moving up the Mersey provides an indicator of the Scouse environs.
But if you’re going to be making a serious investment, you want to get some serious return. Which isn’t happening in Liverpool this year, which saw fee income grow by a measly 3 per cent.
Hill Dicks will instead be pinning its hopes on the smaller Manchester office - recently expanded with some fanfare, bringing on DLA Piper’s joint head of private equity Daryl Cooke at the end of 2007 to run what it hopes will be the best corporate team in the northwest.
The investment may already be starting to pay off, with that office having grown fee income by around 20 per cent.
But maintaining that record will not be easy.
There may be more clients to go around than in Liverpool. Northwest law firms may regard Manchester as less of a closed club than its rival city. But then Manchester is also more-than saturated with competent advisors, all squabbling over the best work. Hill Dicks will need to do its best to get noticed. Perhaps a new premises is in order?