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This year, The Lawyer’s annual ranking of the largest UK law firms by turnover is available as an interactive, digital benchmarking tool. For the first time this will allow you to manipulate each data set against the metrics of your choice.
On the surface, Bird & Bird and FFW seem to be shooting ahead of the pack, with TwoBirds having added 23.7 per cent to turnover this year, FFW 30 per cent.
Further, FFW, the only one to have figured out its profits yet, has also seen its average profit per equity (PEP) shoot up 27.5 per cent to £750k.
Olswang and Taylor Wessing, by contrast, were both up about 11 per cent on turnover, while OC was up 15.
But a little peek behind the figures reveals a need to compare like with like.
FFW set itself off on a three-year plan in November 2004 aimed at boosting revenue to £75m.
In that first year, profit was boosted by a 19 per cent from £325,000 to £390,000, prompting one partner to boast (hilariously, in retrospect): "This is genuine growth and isn't a result of shrinking the equity."
And at the time, that was true. Since then, however, the proportion of equity partners has sunk from 51 per cent to just 30.
In fact the firm has four fewer equity partners than it did back in 2005, but some 44 more partners in total. So the growth’s not so genuine now.
Similarly, Bird & Bird’s equity/non-equity proportion has also shifted, from 42 per cent in 2005 to around a third today.
At Olswang, Osborne Clarke and Taylor Wessing in the same period, however, the ratio has hovered around the 50/50 mark consistently.
So in the eternal search for a leveller, and given the lack of a profit figure for most of them so far, here’s the same firms ranked by revenue per partner:
1. Olswang £1.09m (up 1 per cent on last year)
2. Bird & Bird £905,000 (up 8.8 per cent)
3. Osborne Clarke £826,000 (up 3.8 per cent)
4. FFW £721,000 (down 4 per cent)
5. Taylor Wessing £642,000 (zero change)
Which paints a slightly different picture…
What was that phrase about damn lies and statistics?