The North

Firms in the North of England had a successful 2006-07 financial year by and large, with Newcastle-based firm Dickinson Dees bringing in the most revenue per lawyer(RPL) out of the top 11 firms. A 17.9 per cent increase on last year’s £235,000 brought the total to a more than healthy £277,000.

Managing partner Neil Braithwaite attributes the growth to the launch of its London office in February this year and the merger with York-based firm Philip Ashworth & Co in December 2006. Strengthening its reputation nationally and locally, Braithwaite argues, has contributed to the growth in RPL.

At the other end of the scale, Weightmans and Brabners Chaffe Street had the lowest RPL figures, at £163,000 and £161,000 respectively. While Weightmans experienced a 2.4 per cent decrease on last year’s £167,000, fellow North West firm Brabners’ RPL dropped by 11 per cent, from £188,000 to £166,000.

While Weightmans managing partner Patrick Gaul says its large-loss insurance team contributed well to the firmwide turnover, the lack of growth in RPL was arguably down to the slump in litigation during recent years.

Weightmans’ cost per lawyer (CPL) dropped by just more than 5 per cent, while other firms experienced a dramatic increase. The CPL at DWF, for example, jumped by 27 per cent, from £140,000 up to £179,000, for last year. The firm sits mid-table in the RPL league, taking sixth place with a figure of £213,000, up by 23.8 per cent from £172,000 in 2005-06.

The firm’s hike in CPL can be attributed to its merger with Leeds-based Ricksons in January this year, which created a firm with more than 800 employees and one of the lowest average EPP figures in the region, at £145,000. In 2005-06 DWF’s EPP was more impressive than last year at £168,000. DWF now has offices based in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Preston.

Keoghs was one of the success stories of last year, with a 10.8 per cent increase on RPL, from £188,000 up to £208,000.

While the firm sits in the lower half of the group for RPL and profit per lawyer (PPL), Keoghs, which generates 98 per cent of its turnover from litigation, has survived well given its dependence on this practice area.

EPP rose by a storming 74 per cent, from £108,000 to £185,000, while PPL jumped by 26 per cent, from £23,000 to £29,000. Keoghs managing partner John Whittle attributes the success to a refocusing on large-scale disaster and fraud work within its litigation team.

Expensive and time-consuming investment in a new case-management system and an underperforming company and commercial team had caused profit to slump in 2005-06. After closing down the commercial team and completing the system review at the beginning of the past financial year, figures recovered, accounting for the excellent growth the firm has experienced.

Sitting comfortably at the top of the table for PPL is Leeds-based Walker Morris with a 29.3 per cent increase, from £82,000 up to £106,000. Chairman Peter Smart says performance was healthy across the board, but singles out the two-partner planning and environment team for praise. It reaped the rewards of the buoyant property market by bringing in three major clients.

The firm’s EPP was ranked the highest in the group at £476,000, up by 17 per cent on the £407,000 posted in 2005-06.