Watson Farley & Williams
UK 200 position: 35
Asia-Pacific International 50 rank: 33
The Asia Pacific profile is an edited version of a full write-up that appears in The Lawyer Asia Pacific 150, a comprehensive analysis of the legal market in the region that ranks the top 100 local firms and leading 50 international players by headcount. For more information and to purchase your copy please click here
The rapid rate of growth at Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) since April 2008 has been such that the firm budgeted for a £100m turnover in 2011–12.
It came tantalisingly close to achieving that goal by posting a total revenue of £99.9m for the financial year ending 2011–12, a 12 per cent hike on 2010–11’s £88.8m and an impressive comparison with the end of 2008 figure of £59m, highlighting just how far the firm has come during a difficult time for the market generally.
Profit was slightly diluted by a significant amount of investment in 2011–12, something managing partner Michael Greville believes will pay dividends at the end of the 2012–13 financial year.
In 2011–12 there were 15 lateral partner hires and a new office opening in Hong Kong, moves that nibbled at average profit per equity partner, which dropped from £458,000 in 2010–11 to £446,000 in 2011–12. Net profit came in at £27.9m, a slight rise on last year, with the firm’s profit margin stalling at £30m. This can be accounted for by the firm filling in some of its gaps and adding weight to its business development to enable further organic growth in the current financial year.
Greville has said there are no plans for major expansion in 2013 and there will not be the same level of recruitment in 2012–13 as he looks for the 2011–12 hires to bed in and drive the top and bottom lines. That said, WFW did launch an office in Frankfurt in January 2013, making it the firm's third outpost in Germany to date.
No. of lawyers: 69
The London-based shipping and asset finance specialists only opened in Hong Kong in 2012 — adding to existing regional offices in Singapore (opened in 1998) and Bangkok (2001) — but the firm is already talking about doubling its presence in the jurisdiction to some 20 lawyers.
Watson Farley moved into Hong Kong to capitalise on the emergence of the Chinese banking sector, particularly in the shipping finance areas. “We had been running that work from Singapore, but to remain competitive we had to get into Hong Kong,” says managing partner Michael Greville,explaining that the move was also motivated by Chinese investors moving into some of the firm's core areas in Europe, particularly on the energy side.
Singapore remains the practice's Asia hub with more than more than 40 lawyers and a local law capability. The practice consists of about 70 per cent maritime work mixed with aviation, energy and natural resources work.
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Overview15 Appold St
Turnover (£m): 99.9
Total lawyers: 327
No. of lawyers (Asia Pacific): 69
Offices (Asia Pacific): 3