The South

It was a tumultuous year in the South West, with talent-poaching and mergers in all corners of the market.
The three-year trend shows the region’s leaders even more clearly.

But in terms of revenue per lawyer (RPL) last year, firms in the South fell into three distinct categories: those that soared, those in the mid-range and firms that registered a contraction in RPL.

The year saw Burges Salmon strengthen its lead over closest rival Thomas Eggar and reclaim the profitability crown. The firm’s RPL was £273,000, 2 per cent higher than Thomas Eggar’s £267,000. Both rivals have seen their costs rise over the past three years, with Thomas Eggar’s cost per lawyer (CPL) for the 2006-07 financial year climbing by 7.6 per cent to £184,000, notably higher than Burges Salmon’s £157,000. Burges Salmon also sat comfortably at the top of the profit per lawyer (PPL) table for the South, with PPL at £116,000. Thomas Eggar ranked a distant second with £84,000.

Blake Lapthorn Linnell (now Blake Lapthorn Tarlo Lyons), DMH Stallard, Clarke Willmott and TLT Solicitors all managed to post mid-range RPLs of £200,000 or more, with Blake Lapthorn leading the pack on £226,000.

In terms of RPL growth, DMH and Blake Lapthorn set themselves apart by registering RPL growths of 41 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. DMH posted an RPL of £223,000.

DMH managing partner, Tim Aspinall attributes the firm’s results to an increase in the number of quality mandates that have been secured, such as its appointment to the
London Borough of Southwark’s general panel, and a new focus on efficiency, which began 18 months ago.

Conversely, Bevan Brittan and Bond Pearce experienced dips in RPL. Despite the firms posting fees of £41m and £43.5m, up by 2.5 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively, RPL fell by more than 1 per cent for both firms to £166,000 for Bevan Brittan and £169,000 for Bond Pearce. Bond Pearce blames its poor showing on the loss of two of its key personal injury contracts, which resulted in the redundancies of 12 lawyers. Average profit per equity partner (PEP) at the firm also tumbled by 17 per cent to £150,000.

Bristol firm Ashfords also experienced a drop in RPL of around 1 per cent to £173,000, while TLT faced the largest RPL decrease in the pack, 8.3 per cent. RPL for the firm was down to £200,000 from last year’s £218,000. However, numbers were weighed down by TLT’s capital investment of £3m over the period. TLT managing partner David Pester says the firm’s acquisition of additional office space of 45,000sq ft and lateral hires have affected the numbers this year.

Almost all firms in the South experienced increases in CPL over the past three years except for Bevan Brittan and DMH. DMH saw the largest decrease of 16 per cent, with
CPL falling to £156,000 this year. In 2005 its
CPL was £186,000.

The region saw only one other firm reduce its CPL over the past three years. Bevan Brittan’s CPL shed 7 per cent from 2005’s £136,000 to £127,000 this year. The largest increase in CPL was experienced by Ashfords, which rose from £100,000 in 2005 to £128,000 this year.

With Clarke Willmott taking the crown for poaching activities, it is no surprise the firm posted an increase of 24 per cent in CPL. The year saw the firm scoop TLT’s
head of tax and real estate Mary McCartney, and Bevan Brittan real estate partner Greg Lovett. RPL for the firm rose by 17 per cent to £213,000.

Unsurprisingly, Burges Salmon also took the top spot for earnings per partner, which was £414,000, up by just more than 10 per cent on the £374,000 for 2005-06.