The new measure of success

Do you know how much money your property generates? Or, to be more precise, how much revenue per square foot of your firm’s real estate your fee-earners are churning out?

Matt Byrne

If the answer’s no, you might want to take a look at our feature on page 20.

Following the launch of this year’s The Lawyer UK 200 Annual Report earlier this month, we’ve taken the findings from one of the brand new questions we asked firms and have come up with a must-read analysis based on a welter of novel metrics.

Among the key new measures is the ranking of firms by square foot per person, per fee-earner and per lawyer. For each The Lawyer has provided the associated cost.

The result? The rampant segmentation of the UK legal market laid bare. Our data includes the likes of Allen & Overy, which spends £100m each year on its 1,726,947sq ft of space. As our feature reveals, that works out at 766sq ft per lawyer at a cost of £44,385 per year each.

Contrast that with volume legal services provider Minster Law. The personal injury shop paid £1.4m for the 69,029sq ft it controlled last year, with 732 people squeezed into that space. That works out at just 94sq ft per staff member, the least in the table. By the way, Minster only has 31 qualified lawyers, making its sq ft per lawyer the highest in our research, at a whopping 2,227 square feet.

This stuff matters. Arguably much more than PEP or total revenue figures, this data is the clearest indicator yet of where the UK market is heading, yet many across the UK remain stuck with their heads in the sand when it comes to these seismic changes. In total we analysed data from 70 firms, figures that not only show individual costs but also the proportion of total costs and revenue accounted for by real estate, another metric. It is all available online with the UK 200 report. You might want to benchmark yourself.

In next week’s issue we’ll be looking in detail at another by operational trend, the disaggregation of legal services, exploring the reluctance of some in-house lawyers to initiate that process, despite the fact that they are often delighted with the outcome.

The signposts for where the market is heading are there, but the debate rages on.