Fantasy financial figures

Early results give distorted picture of the health of the profession


It is financials season again and first out of the blocks are those firms that can boast growth for the 2012/13 financial year. It is The Lawyer’s experience that the doom-makers will hold off as long as they can to volunteer their figures.

So first for the good news – there is growth in pockets of the civil profession, with revenue rises at Harper McLeod, Mishcon de Reya, Weightmans and Michelmores.

First up, Harper McLeod bucked the malaise in Scotland with a 9.5 per cent rise in turnover, to £21m. At the end of 2007/08 the firm did not even feature in our UK 200.

Next, Mishcon de Reya smashed its revenue target with a massive 14 per cent hike, to £83.4m. In fact, since 2007/08 Mishcon has grown organically and through lateral hires by 77 per cent, from £47.1m.

The firm credits the post-crunch litigation boom for much of this growth, but it should also look to the development of its private client practice. Mishcon has long been a go-to outfit for the high-net-worth set (think the late Diana, Princess of Wales), but in the past year it has pulled those strands together to offer a luxury service.

Pampered clients have access to private banking advice and consolidated asset reporting, as well as tax and structuring advice. Throw in a luxury concierge service and they are happy.

Weightmans too broke through the £80m barrier, posting revenues of £82m – up from £77.1m in 2011/12. The firm has grown by 64.6 per cent since 2007/08, driven in part by two acquisitions in 2011 -Mace & Jones and Vizards Wyeth. It has also broadened its portfolio of services and put growth in London at the top of its agenda.

Exeter’s Michelmores posted a 15 per cent turnover rise. The increase, to £22.3m (up 32 per cent from £16.9m in 2007/08), also saw bonuses paid out to all staff, equivalent of 3 per cent of their salaries. The firm is not standing still and has opened in Bristol through the hire of two partners from regional rival Wilsons.

Looking at all this you could be forgiven for thinking that growth has returned to the profession. Sadly, it is just a mirage.