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The 2011/12 LLP accounts reflect the change in the firm’s corporate structure and reward structure, with a £9.4m one-off uplift of accrued income and £14.3m basic profit share distributed to members declared.
Pickering said like-for-like profit was up from £31.3m to £38.6m, pointing to a “very pleasing” 23 per cent increase.
The cashflow figures show that Irwin Mitchell’s net debt at the end of 2011/12 was up to £13.7m from £1.1m the previous year, with bank loans and overdrafts up from £4.1m to £15.2m.
Pickering said that for a near-£200m group he was “comfortable” with the borrowing, which reflected a “significant amount of investment in the growth of the business”.
He said: “It’s a function of heavy and high-level recruitment and investment in the infrastructure such as IT systems.
“How do we fund the growth? We’ve taken on some more net debt, which is hugely within our financial capabilities.”
The accounts show that staff costs went up by £5m to £75m for 2011/12, with the number of fee-earners increasing from 1,253 to 1,273. Partner numbers went up from 57 to 63, while support staff headcount decreased from 870 to 834.
The firm took on DLA Piper’s Manchester real estate team of Anita Weightman, Roy Beckett, Patrick Duffy and Tony Weightman last month and Pickering said it is part of the continued drive to diversify the firm’s offering from being 85 per cent litigation (21 January 2013).
Pickering wants to increase Irwin Mitchell’s “relatively modest” corporate transaction capabilities in the business legal services division, having added 12 new partners since June 2012, as well as group CFO Andrew Merrick, who starts in April (12 December 2012).
He is the third non-lawyer to be appointed to the board of parent group IMCO Holdings after former PricewaterhouseCoopers vice-chairman Glyn Barker and ex-KPMG UK senior partner Mel Egglenton were brought on board (16 January 2012).