Magic circle partners net £1m

Magic circle partners have broken the £1m profits barrier for the first time.

The top partners at Slaughter and May and Allen & Overy will each enjoy profits of over £1m for the financial year 1999-2000, reflecting the boom in premium City work.

Slaughter and May posted revenues of some £243m, with profits ranging from £600,000 for a first-year partner to £1.2m for a plateau partner of 10 or more years' standing. Some 37 equity partners are understood to be at plateau level.

This represents a substantial increase even on 1999's record profits. According to The Lawyer 100 last year, top partners at Slaughter and May were on £950,000.

At Allen & Overy, first-year partners now make £432,000, while the firm's top partners make £1.08m, up from last year's £780,000.

But that level of profits is allocated to a small number – only 15 Allen & Overy partners enjoy pole position at the top of the lock step.

The other magic circle firms also turned in record figures. Linklaters & Alliance grossed £395m, with top partners on £925,000 and first-year partners on £363,000.

Provisional indications are that Clifford Chance plateau partners are scheduled to make some £804,000 and first-year partners are on £320,000.

Clifford Chance's figures are complicated by the three-way merger with Rogers & Wells and Pünder Volhard Weber & Axster, which operate different financial years.

Freshfields turned over around £380m, a leap from the £287m reported by The Lawyer 100 last year. Top partners just pip Clifford Chance's profit figures, making £810,000, while first-year partners will earn £405,000.

But, as revealed in The Lawyer (19 June), following the merger with Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber, the Freshfields lockstep will change from two to one over 10 years (where partners of 10 or more years' seniority earned twice as much as first-year partners) to two-and-a-half to one over 12 years.

This now leaves Slaughter and May as the only magic circle firm with a two to one spread – the others are all on a wider distribution of two-and-a-half to one.

The latest figures underline the financial strength of magic circle firms, but other City giants have also had excellent year-end results. Herbert Smith, in particular, made a strong showing.

The firm grossed £167m, up nearly 16 per cent from £144m, as reported in The Lawyer 100 last year. Top partners are making £705,000, while new entrants to the equity will start on £317,000.

See page 2 for a full list of members of the million-pound club.