The Lawyer UK 200 preview: Regional: North steams ahead in profit fightback

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  • In my market (Newcastle) the perception is:
    - Ward Hadaway & Muckle are slowly on the way up;
    - Dickinson Dees & Watson Burton are yesterday's firms;
    - Eversheds are, just about, holding their own; and
    - DWF are biding their time before recruiting.
    Overall the market is slightly over-lawyered. However fees are a bit too high so there will be some scrapping for work over the next 12 months.
    I predict at least one of the top 8 firms in Newcastle going under within the next 18 months.

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  • Anon 11:41,
    I think that's a pretty decent appraisal of the Newcastle legal market.
    Too many solicitors have made it a buyer's market. I've noticed in the last ten years that the name of the firm now counts for little in Newcastle. It used to be that Dickinson Dees got work from the old banks and property companies because they had a working relationship going back for decades. That's now dying - these firms want value for money.
    I think we'll see a large Newcastle firm go under within two years.
    Watson Burton looks in a precarious position. Dickinson Dees seems to have become a very unhappy place to work and its financial results suggest the current crop of partners aren't as resourceful as their predecessors. Sintons should be added to the mix - there's little loyalty in the low prices market & it's likely charge out rates will drop soon.

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  • I'd tag WH in a mid-category between DD's and Eversheds, just about holding their own, but not the force they once were.
    Other then that - I agree.
    Ps- you forgot Beachcroft... I will summarise - "who?"

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  • I guess it depends on what you mean by holding their own.

    Imagine that a farmer owns a field full of cows. In one year most of them grew by 2% this year. One cow though isn't growing, indeed it has shrunk by 6%. I would say that cow isn't doing well, it's not holding it's own but shrinking.

    According to the Lawyer's statistics, the turnover of Dickinson Dees dropped by 6.8% last year.

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  • sintons is a pi firm

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  • The next year will be very interesting for the Newcastle law firms. The likes of DD and WH will struggle to increase their turnover as DWF enters the market, as many of their clients are increasingly price sensitive at the expense of loyalty to their advisers, and are therefore likely to at least give DWF a try. In a stagnant North East market losing even a few decent sized mandates will make a big difference.

    The threat to the existing Newcastle firms of a growing, aspirational firm entering the market should not be underestimated; I agree with earlier comments that at least one firm will go.

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  • The arrogance of some of the North East firms means that you end up hating your solicitors. In my old work, if a big contract didn't go to a particular large North East firm, the client contact partner would bad mouth you around town.
    I won't name the firm, but I think most people who have had dealings with them will know who it is. I'm so glad I don't have to deal with them anymore.

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  • 16-Aug-2011 9:50 am...

    I think you missed out "ss poor" from your post.

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  • The North East needs a couple more national firms.
    It's a mystery that DWF didn't move up to Newcastle five years ago. If they had made the jump then they would be easily the biggest firm in the city by now.
    It'll be interesting to see if any other firms spot easy pickings in the Newcastle legal market.

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  • Are the North's firms in better health than those in the South?

    Surely when clients have little money, cost becomes more important. The Northern firms tend to be cheaper.

    Correspondingly the North is likely to be hit harder by the commoditisation of legal work. I think Newcastle firms are closer to the breadline and therefore are more likely to accept the buy out offers from the big supermarkets. Newcastle could be the Alternative Business Structure legal capital in five years.

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