North West firm Weightmans increased its headcount by 10 per cent in the last full financial year as rivals slashed their staff numbers.
Total staff numbers at the top 60 firm increased from 725 in the 2008-09 financial year to 800 in 2009-10, with the biggest increase in junior fee-earners, including paralegals. The total number of members of the LLP remained static over the period at 102.
The influx of new employees led to an increase in staff costs from £22.9m to £25.3m as turnover grew from £52.4m to £56.1m.
A small proportion of the headcount growth was at the more senior level and was attributable to the firm re-building its London practice after a team left for DWF (16 September 2008).
Managing partner Paddy Gaul told The Lawyer that unlike many other North West firms, the lack of a major redundancy programme at Weightmans was also a contributing factor.
The Lawyer’s Legal Job Watch table recorded 4,263 redundancies at the UK’s largest 200 firms between autumn 2007 and April 2010.
However, Gaul added that while the firm experienced a considerable increase in its employee numbers last year he expected this year to be “calmer”.
“Over the last four years we’ve had a year of big increase, followed by a year of calm, with flat headcount. 2010-11 will be a year of calm,” he said.
The pattern would be perpetuated if merger discussions currently underway with smaller firms Mace & Jones and Vizards Wyeth end in a deal. Such an arrangement would see another 100 or so staff added to Weightmans’ total headcount in the 2011-12 financial year (7 January 2011).