The agony and the ecstasy

The reaction of managing partners to their financial results probably says more about their current state of play than the results themselves.

Addleshaws’ managing partner Mark Jones was tight-lipped, verging on grumpy, about his firm’s 12 per cent rise: “It’s a solid rather than spectacular result.”

Contrast Jones’s curt demeanor with that of Eversheds‘ David Gray, who joyfully declared: “We’ve had a great six months. It’s really good to see it pay off.”

Eversheds’ achievement? It had managed to boost revenue by 13 per cent. No mean achievement, but at the bottom end of ‘good’ among the top 30.

This is Gray’s way, of course. His main aim is to make Eversheds the loveliest place to work in the world ever, ever, ever. And at the end of the last financial year, turnover was up just 6 per cent, so Gray has reason to celebrate a change in fortune. At Addleshaws, turnover rose by 16 per cent last year, so one can understand Jones’s mood after merely replicating that success during the following six months.

Nabarros, which also managed a 12 per cent rise, was “very pleased”. It seems strange to talk of these figures as disappointing, but that’s what they are. These firms have a lot in common, not least the lack of a coherent international offering.

Eversheds has gone down the alliance route rather than merging with local offices overseas. Its allies in Germany, Italy and Poland all reported revenue rises of around 25 per cent last year. With such contrasting performances you can see why Eversheds’ friends have little appetite for a merger.

The internationalists at Allen & Overy (A&O), Ashurst, Clifford Chance and particularly Freshfields have more reasons to be cheerful.

A&O managing partner David Morley said his firm’s 18 per cent was “very healthy organic growth”, while one senior Clifford Chance partner was delighted with his firm’s 16 per cent growth – before being told about rivals’ performances. “You have to stop people getting complacent,” he grumbled.

And what of Freshfields? It’s been a week of incredible upheaval at the magic circle firm. Two of its partners face a disciplinary tribunal, while 30 partners have been moved off the balance sheet in a move that will save the firm another £14m. Management is delighted with a 24 per cent rise in revenue, but you won’t find it crowing. After all, it’s not quite good enough. It’s got partners to de-equitise and redundancies to make.

Next year’s figures are what counts.

#steve.hoare@thelawyer.com