BLP keeps top earners sweet despite profit dip

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) spent in the region of £10m on its international expansion during the 2008-09 financial year, The Lawyer can reveal, but
top earners have been unaffected by the resultant drop in profitability.

BLP launched in Moscow and Abu Dhabi in January, breaking with a previous international strategy of non-exclusive networks of referral firms.

The firm spent around £200,000 on due diligence on its tie-up with around 70 lawyers from Russian practice Pepeliaev Goltsblat & Partners. BLP ­subsequently signed terms on 2,000sq m of space in a Moscow office complex, where it is believed to pay an annual rent of between $1.3m (£785,000) and $1.8m.

Partly as a result of these investments the firm has experienced a drop in profitability, with profit per equity partner falling by 33 per cent, from £620,000 to £414,000. The bottom of the equity has also fallen substantially, from £350,000 in 2007-08 to £185,000 this year – a fall of 47 per cent.

However, BLP, which has a policy of bringing in high-profile lateral hires on guaranteed equity packages, will continue to pay plateau partners £1m, the same sum as last year.

A BLP spokesperson said the partnership supported the remuneration structure, adding: “In a difficult ­market the value and ­contribution of those high earners is very apparent.”

But another BLP source said: “If they’re performing well and we’re making money on them [nobody will complain, but] if they’re not making money then people might be pissed off.

“We’ve continued to make aggressive hires and spend money – in a few years we’ll find out if that’s a good decision or not.”