Watson Farley & Williams continued its four-year trend of steady revenue growth last year, with turnover up from £80.2m to £88.8m and average profit per equity partner also edging up, from £448,000 to £458,000.
Since its corporate practice is its second-largest area and represents a third of the firm’s global revenue, outstanding annual results have been something of a rarity during the recession for Watson Farley. But firmwide managing partner Michael Greville says last year’s impressive performance was mainly down to the strength of its finance practice, which represented 47 per cent of global revenue and which limited its exposure to hard-hit markets such as corporate and property.
But the picture was not all rosy. The firm’s profit margin dropped slightly, from 32 per cent to 30 per cent, while revenue per lawyer dipped from £322,000 to £318,000.
Watson Farley’s network comprises 12 offices across Europe, Asia and the US, but it has identified London as an area for improvement. Greville admitted that growth on home soil has proven more elusive than in other jurisdictions. Part of this strategy included the appointment in February of finance partner Mike Vernell as Watson Farley’s first London head. Vernell’s role includes supporting Greville in running the City headquarters.
Watson Farley is led by a management committee comprised of Greville, heads of jurisdictions and directors of operations and marketing. The firm operates a managed lockstep. Partners’ advancement, as well as their slices of the bonus pool, are decided by Greville and the board of directors each year.