Profit plummets at Watson Burton

Newcastle’s Watson Burton has recorded a breathtaking drop in profitability in the firm’s first financial year-end figures since ousting senior partner Andrew Hoyle.

Partners are reeling at provisional average profit per equity partner (PEP) of £220,000, down by almost half a million from 2006-07’s record figure of £712,000.

Total turnover has also dropped, from £22.9m last year to £22.7m in 2006-07.

New senior partner Rob Langley was unavailable for comment, but the firm released a statement blaming the eye-watering results on the end of the revenue generated by the Government’s coalminers compensation scheme, to which Watson Burton had previously dedicated a team of around 60 lawyers.

It also claimed that the blockbusting 2005-06 PEP figure was radically downsized to £460,000 following an official audit, though that revised figure has not previously been released to the press.

The results come nine months after former senior partner Andrew Hoyle was ejected from the firm over objections to his expansion ambitions outside Newcastle (The Lawyer, 26 September 2006).

Hoyle has since joined Tyneside archrival Ward Hadaway (The Lawyer, 16 April), which last week announced PEP up by 10 per cent to £405,000, and a 16 per cent increase in turnover to £25m (The Lawyer, 20 June 2007).

Watson Burton has since lost Leeds founder partner and corporate specialist Mark Warburton to the York office of Geordie rival Dickinson Dees (The Lawyer 23 April 2007). In May Warburton joined Dickinsons’ York office, which was opened officially in February following a December 2006 merger with Leeds-based corporate boutique Philip Ashworth & Co (The Lawyer, 11 December 2006).