UK 200: RPL

Our revenue per lawyer figures show that there’s high-value work in niche firms, but are this metric’s days numbered? Unlike the profit per equity partner (PEP) ranking, The Lawyer’s revenue per lawyer (RPL) table covers all the 200 firms in our study. But the question is – how long will RPL continue as a workable metric?

To have a closer look into the RPL data from all UK 200 firms, purchase access to the full report visiting www.thelawyer.com/uk200 or contacting Daniela Badcock on +44 (0) 207 970 4582

Stewarts

RPL continues to be a useful measurement for traditional partnerships, since it denotes the average value of work undertaken by qualified lawyers (ie not trainees or paralegals). However, an increasing number of firms in the volume sector have a small number of qualified lawyers and hordes of paralegals, which necessarily skews the RPL figure. These include Minster Law, Winn Solicitors and Optima. Minster, which holds the UK’s biggest road traffic accident practice, has a sole shareholder in chairman Adrian Christmas; this is by no means a classic legal structure.

Personal injury specialist Bott & Co rivals Minster for the top spot of RPL: its revenues are £12.9m on a total of 10 lawyers, who are considerably outnumbered by other fee-earners and support staff. In a similar mould, Newcastle-based Winn Solicitors – another personal injury specialist – turns over £17.15m on just 35 qualified lawyers, making an RPL of £490,000. That figure puts it between Clifford Chance and Hogan Lovells. Winn Solicitors is one of many personal injury firms that have turned in spectacularly good results for owner-managers. 

These players aside, the firms heading the RPL list are the usual suspects. Magic circle firms are unsurprisingly the most productive on RPL; all manage over £500,000 per lawyer, with the lowest being Clifford Chance at £503,000, whose RPL dropped from £517,000 in 2011/12.

Focus group

A cursory reading of these figures shows that there is high-value work in niche firms. Stewarts Law (£443,000), Fenwick Elliott (£383,000), Peters & Peters (£370,000), Edwin Coe (£352,000), Rosenblatt (£333,000) and Dickson Minto (£315,000) all punch above their weight on the RPL table. But prince among them is pensions boutique Sackers, which scores RPL of £528,000 and is sandwiched by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters above and Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance below, although Rosenblatt’s figure has dropped from £420,000 the previous year.

Mid-sized City firms tend to group in the £250,000-£350,000 bracket. Most have dipped slightly this year but there were some creditable increases. Nabarro’s RPL rose from £299,000 to £323,000 and Lawrence Graham’s from £293,000 to £304,000. However, these increases did not necessarily translate into a significant increase in overall revenue; Nabarro’s turnover inched up by just 2.6 per cent, from £113.4m to £116.3m, while Lawrence Graham’s actually slid by 7.5 per cent, from £56m to £51m. 

One of the biggest risers was Mishcon de Reya, whose RPL leapt from £317,000 to £376,000. That fuelled a huge rise in the top line; the firm broke through its £80m turnover target with a 14 per cent rise in revenue for 2012/13, turning over £83.4m compared with £73.1m the year before.

Penningtons and Manches, which merged this month following the latter’s pre-pack administration, scored virtually identical RPL, at £242,000 and £241,000 respectively. Bond Pearce and Dickinson Dees, which saw their last independently recorded financials for the 2012/13 year before their merger, also had near-identical RPL profiles, at £228,000 and £225,000 respectively. South West firms Ashfords and
Bevan Brittan, which operated in the early part of the decade yoked in an uneasy not-quite-merger, report precisely the same RPL of £200,000.

There are some surprising names lower down the list. Osborne Clarke’s RPL fell from £257,000 to £217,000 – a poor figure compared with its mid-sized rivals, and one reflected in its 1 per cent drop in revenue in 2012/13, from £98.2m to £97.3m for its Anglo-German practice (the firm also includes revenues from its European Verein for its overall turnover figure of £112.8m). Dundas & Wilson’s RPL also fell from £206,000 to £176,000 and its overall turnover decreased by 10.6 per cent, from £54.5m to £48.7m. However, Weightmans’ increase in RPL from £171,000 to £179,000 – while still low in the charts – meant an uplift on the top line, with revenues up by 6 per cent, to £82m from £77.1m in 2011/12. DAC Beachcroft’s rise (up from £148,000 to £193,000) also translated into enhanced turnover figure for the firm, seeing it record a 15.3 per cent increase in revenue, from £163.2m to £188.2m.

To purchase access to the full report visit www.thelawyer.com/uk200 or contact Daniela Badcock on +44 (0) 207 970 4582