Osborne Clarke holds off rivals to stay top in Bristol

Osborne Clarke holds off rivals to stay top in Bristol” />
The profitability gap has widened between Bristol’s top two firms, while the city’s closely tied second tier has been broken apart.

The city’s financial year-end results show that average profit per equity partner (PEP) at South West premier league firm Burges Salmon was outstripped by rival Osborne Clarke for the third year in a row.

Burges Salmon recorded a PEP increase of 15 per cent, from £410,000 to £470,000, while a 20 per cent rise at Osborne Clarke from 2005-06’s £425,000 saw the firm break the £500,000 PEP barrier for the first time, recording £511,000.

However, Burges Salmon managing partner Guy Stobart argued that PEP was not an accurate reflection of performance and played down the burgeoning disparity. “Coca-Cola wouldn’t be anything like as successful if there wasn’t PepsiCo, and we welcome the competition,” he said.

Both firms recorded only modest increases in turnover, however, with Burges Salmon’s income up by 13 per cent, from £54.2m to £61.4m, and Osborne Clarke’s revenue up by 11 per cent, from £74.1m to £82.8m.

TLT Solicitors, the two firms’ closest Bristol rival, saw robust turnover growth of 32 per cent. This translated into a rise from £28.8m to £38m, although the firm did record a 9 per cent drop in PEP, from £300,000 to £275,000.

According to the firm this was due to capital investments totalling £3m as well as the creation of three new directorships.

Among the city’s second tier, the close tie in turnover seen 12 months ago between Bevan Brittan, Bond Pearce and Clarke Willmott has been broken. Clarke Willmott’s turnover rose by a healthy 14 per cent, from £39.4m in 2005-06 to hit £45m this time round.

Meanwhile, Bond Pearce recorded a modest 6 per cent rise, from £41.1m to £43.5m, and Bevan Brittan posted a sluggish rise of just 3 per cent, from £40m to £41.1m.

Clarke Willmott’s PEP rose by just 3 per cent, however, from £252,000 to £260,000, while Bevan Brittan increased PEP by a healthy 21 per cent, from £193,000 to £230,000. Bond Pearce, on the other hand, recorded a sharp drop of 17 per cent from last year’s £180,000 to just £150,000 due to the loss of two major personal injury contracts and new office costs (The Lawyer, 16 July).