WINNER: Taylor Wessing
Taylor Wessing has established itself as a mid-market jewel. In the 2012/13 financial year UK turnover increased from £101m to £104.5m following an outstanding first six months, while global revenue is now £228m, more than double its turnover at the time of the merger.
Furthermore, the bottom line is among the best of its City peers; average UK profit per equity partner (PEP) in 2011/12 topped £600,000, a rise of almost 12 per cent on a 2010/11 figure of £537,000 and an extraordinary achievement in the downturn.
But Taylor Wessing does not just scoop the prize of Law Firm of the Year for its financial management. What distinguishes the firm has been its strategically astute, not to say imaginative, growth and its commitment to investing in new economies, thereby differentiating itself from so many of its competitors. Under managing partner Tim Eyles, Taylor Wessing has tapped extraordinary sources of energy. It is one of the few mid-size UK firms that has had a sustained pattern of global growth, with nine new offices in seven new jurisdictions in CEE and Asia following its mergers with Austria and Singapore. And its Tech City office not only plays to the firm's traditional heartland of IP, but embeds itself well and truly within the emerging digital industries.
Traditionally strong in mid-market corporate work, the firm has hedged itself remarkably well during the recession. Litigation is strong and an investment in a private wealth practice has reaped dividends, while its heritage businesses in IP, from patents to brand protection, has helped power expansion into Asia. The judges said: “They have a relentless expansion agenda and their achievement of opening nine new offices in the last year is particularly impressive, never mind the economic context. Statistics of a 31 per cent increase in PEP in 2012 and a 71 per cent pitch hit rate are staggering. 2012 was a truly outstanding year for the firm.”
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Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and finalists.
RPC is another prime example of a mid-market firm that can demonstrate strategic and financial excellence. One of the few full equity partnerships remaining in the City, it posted organic growth of 13 per cent in revenue in 2011/12 and a profit margin of 34 per cent in 2011/12. Crucially, that revenue growth has been achieved through minimal debt. RPC's gutsy performance has required a repositioning away from a domestic insurance brand towards a rebalanced practice model. In 2008, insurance-derived revenues accounted for 63 per cent of turnover; in 2012 it was 51 per cent. As last year's prize at The Lawyer Awards for mid-market Corporate Team of the Year demonstrated, corporate has been a major driver, with department revenues up 20 per cent.
The past 18 months have seen three bold moves that have underpinned this transformation. In November 2011 the firm opened in Singapore; in early 2012 it launched in Bristol with a six-partner lateral team and in August 2012 took on no fewer that 40 people for a new Hong Kong office.
No longer a dusty insurance firm, RPC is now a force to be reckoned with. Top-class leadership and engaged staff completes the picture. The judges said: “They are revamping, reinventing and innovating. They're very much on an upward curve while maintaining their standards and their foundations. In other words, they are not a remorseless legal sausage machine.”
Three years ago Shakespeares chief executive Paul Wilson vowed to grow the Birmingham-based firm's turnover from £11m to £50m in five years. In fact it took just three for the firm to reach a turnover of £48.7m, with staff growing from 200 to 670 following no fewer than six Midlands mergers including those with Needham & James, Berryman and Harvey Ingram, and all accomplished with minimal fallout. In the process Shakespeares has seen a major revamp of its operations, with investment in infrastructure, particularly in management technology and pricing expertise. It is now the second-largest law firm in the Midlands and a force to be reckoned with. The judges were impressed, citing the way the firm had melded such disparate cultures and practices as well as a largely non-lawyer management team: “They've created something unique and innovative in a short timescale.”