Introduction

Why 200? It’s a reasonable question.

The Lawyer UK 100 Annual Report has helped define the top end of the UK legal market for almost 10 years, driving unprecedented levels of transparency among the top firms. It is probably not pushing it too far to claim it is partly responsible for encouraging a raft of major changes, notably the move to LLP status. So why change it?

The reason is the advent of the Legal Services Act. The UK legal market is on the cusp of potentially the biggest change in its history. And what is certain is that it will not only be the largest firms that are affected.

The world already has a publicly listed law firm in the form of Australian personal injury outfit Slater & Gordon. But it is not a big firm – indeed, its market capitalisation at flotation was only £45m.

Since that deal several UK volume businesses have told The Lawyer that they are eyeing a Slater & Gordon-style float. Trust us, they are not all Irwin Mitchell.

Many of the firms most eagerly anticipating the Clementi-related changes can be found among the lower reaches of the UK 200. It is only appropriate that the leading statistical and editorial report on the profession should reflect what, for many firms, may prove to be year zero.

The latter comment, of course, is entirely debatable. But if 2006-07 was year zero, then what a year it was. The global elite all posted average profit per equity partner figures of more than £1m; total revenue for the top 100 hit more than £12bn; top of equity at Slaughter and May topped £2m. For all but a few, 2006-07 was the best year ever.

The same can be said for many of the top 30 US firms in London and the UK’s 30 leading chambers, all of which are covered in these pages.

But it was also a landmark year for The Lawyer. It was our 20th anniversary, a year marked internally by the rapidly growing importance of the internet in our reporting.

Increasingly The Lawyer breaks stories on the web and our coverage, in this age of Web 2.0, is becoming increasingly interactive.

Consequently the web’s growing role is reflected in this year’s annual report. For the first time this publication is truly integrated with the internet, with full versions of many of the features only available online.

Take our innovative ‘Buy, Sell, Hold’ piece, which gives The Lawyer’s exclusive tips (hypothetical, of course) on which firms’ shares to buy, sell or hold in a post-Clementi world.

For the rationale behind the advice, and to see the full write-up on each of this year’s top 200 UK firms, you’ll need to go online and visit www.thelawyer.com.