Manchester firms see modest growth

Like the city’s infamous weather, the fortunes of Manchester’s law firms have been mixed over the past few months

Unstable markets, economic doom-mongering and fears about interest rates have all had a considerable effect. Turnover figures continued to rise, but, with one or two exceptions, growth rates are well down on last year.

Those hardest hit are firms with big corporate finance focuses, such as Addleshaw Booth & Co and Hammond Suddards Edge, which have had to settle for considerably reduced growth over the past 12 months.

In Hammonds’ case, turnover grew by 2.1 per cent, a figure newly-installed managing partner Liam Buckley attributed partly to a change in the way the figure was calculated and partly to the general corporate slowdown.

“Elements of the business such as property – which went up 60 per cent – construction and employment have all performed strongly, while corporate has been relatively static for most firms,” he said.

Addleshaws fared slightly better with 5.2 per cent growth. It is the first time in five years that Addleshaws has released individual turnover figures for its offices and despite reduced growth, it still posted £34.1m – over £6m more than its nearest rival, or at least those rivals that released confirmed figures.

Although it did not release a separate Manchester turnover this year, Eversheds did confirm that the turnover had increased by 18 per cent. Based on last year’s figure, which was released, this would take turnover to £29.5m. Impressive, but still almost £5m behind its rival.

DLA’s strategy of broadening out from its traditional corporate strengths seems to have paid off. Its turnover increased by more than 13 per cent, no doubt assisted by its growing international presence.

Halliwell Landau reinforced its position as the most serious threat to the nationals, with a 10 per cent growth to £27m.

Beachcroft Wansboroughs has a lower profile than all its national rivals, and at 16 partners, its Manchester office is considerably smaller, but its turnover was up more than 20 per cent last year to £7.1m.

One surprise was Pannone & Partners’ strong showing. It posted a rise of almost 20 per cent to £21.3m. The firm’s smaller corporate department meant the firm was not as exposed to the fall-off in big ticket transactional work. “Our income isn’t made up of a few large clients and not a lot else. If we look at our top 50 clients, an awful lot of them are paying us not huge amounts,” said managing partner Joy Kingsley.

Former Reed Hind Stewart partners, who merged with Cobbetts in May, saw a 12.5 per cent growth in turnover. And it is not only the partners who will feel the benefit – it was the first year of a profit-based staff bonus scheme and the increase should ensure a 5 per cent bonus fund for staff.

By far the most impressive growth was at the unheralded Rowe Cohen, continuing its astonishing rise from a high street practice in Oldham five years ago to post a 62.5 per cent rise in turnover to £13m, with just 16 partners. Not a big-hitter in the corporate market, the firm said that much of the increased fee income came from its core strengths of property, personal injury and corporate and commercial litigation.