Regional: South East

Firms report bumper six months

We have reached the halfway point in the financial year and, on the whole, its looks to have been a good six months for the South East legal market. Firms have reported a bumper six months, with many ahead of their predicted budgets. Corporate and property practices have been performing especially well.

Cripps Harries Hall seems to be slowly pulling itself out of the doldrums. Managing partner Jonathan Denny has admitted that the firm was disappointed with its results at the end of the 2004-05 financial year. The firm’s turnover rose just 0.5 per cent to £19.4m.

However, the firm has undergone a restructuring to organise itself along sector lines and it seems to be paying off. Turnover is up 6 per cent on the same period last year, while profit per equity partner (PEP) is up 14 per cent. If the firm carries on in this way, it will boast an end-of-year turnover of £20.6m and a PEP of £166,000.

Cripps has picked up a staggering 23 new corporate clients from its lateral hire Olivier Morel. The France and UK dual-qualified lawyer joined the firm from Browne Jacobson earlier this year and has brought a plethora of French companies with UK interests with him. Cripps has also been reappointed to the Land Securities panel, which was no doubt a huge relief for the firm.

As first reported in The Lawyer (5 December), Thomas Eggar is set to see a 22 per cent increase in turnover this year. Fee income at the six-month mark is up 17 per cent on the same period last year and the firm aims to finish the year with a turnover of close to £34m, up from £27.8m for the 2004-05 financial year. Managing partner Tony Edwards has also set a target for PEP of £300,000 by the end of the 2006-07 financial year, compared with £235,000 last year.

ASB Law senior partner Russell Bell says his firm is ahead of budget, but he could not be coaxed into revealing more precise figures. Corporate finance, aviation and financial services have all been strong performers. Highlights include the renewal of its contract with London local authority Wandsworth Borough Council. The firm is also moving to new offices in Maidstone.

DMH Stallard is enjoying its first full financial year as a newly merged company. The firm – the result of a merger between DMH and Stallard in January this year – is still only five months into its financial year, but managing partner Tim Aspinall said he is pleased with the progress. DMH has picked up a raft of new clients this year, including a place on Bank of Scotland’s secured lending panel. Rapid growth of the London office is one of Aspinall’s priorities. He has set a goal of doubling the office’s turnover in the next three years, from £5m to £10m.

Blake Lapthorn Linnell recorded a PEP increase of 40 per cent for the first six months and a rise in turnover of 11 per cent. New senior partner Jonathan Lloyd-Jones told The Lawyer: “It’s been a great year for the firm and much of the growth has come from the areas we invested in over the last two to three years.” These include insolvency, licensing and professional disciplinary.

South East firms lead The Rising 50

The biggest firms in the South East may be making steady progress up the league tables, but they would do well to keep one eye on the smaller firms coming up behind them. The Lawyer survey The Rising 50 showed there are a whole raft of smaller South East firms with turnover and revenue per lawyer figures that many in the top 100 would give their right arm for.

South East firms made up more than a fifth of this year’s The Rising 50. Together, the 11 firms have generated revenues of £143.4m.

With a turnover of £16m, Lester Aldridge looks set to be the first of The Rising 50 firms to make the leap into The Lawyer UK 100 Annual Report table. Its turnover rocketed by 22.8 per cent in the 2004-05 financial year thanks to a merger and an overall strong performance. But the firm is not resting on its laurels. As first reported in The Lawyer (14 November), managing partner Roger Woolley wants to double the size of its Southampton office during the next two years, from 35 to around 70 lawyers, through a series of hires at partner and associate levels.

Fennemores sheds partners to EMW

Much has been made of the departure of three of Fennemores’ most senior partners from its Milton Keynes office. Joint commercial property head Rob Goffman, senior partner Simon Ingram and corporate and commercial partner Chris Robinson have all handed in their resignations and are understood to be joining local rival EMW Law.

The move could have turned out quite differently, as it is understood that the team had informal talks with at least three other firms in the area.

Other lawyers on the move in the South East include Melanie Carter, who joined DMH Stallard from Bindman & Partners to head the firm’s public law division.

Penningtons scooped Goodman Derrick partner David Bickford to head the employment law practice at its Basingstoke office, while Blake Lapthorn Linnell raided Berwin Leighton Paisner for finance specialist Edmund Woollam.

Blake Lapthorn elects new senior partner

As first reported on (6 December), South East firm Blake Lapthorn Linnell has elected Jonathan Lloyd- Jones as its senior partner.

Lloyd-Jones took over from Carey Blake on 3 December and will hold the position for three years. Head of employment Max Craft also stood in the election, but Lloyd-Jones won with 62 per cent of the vote.

On his election, Lloyd-Jones said: “The main things I stood for were the further integration of the firm since its merger and continuing to expand in the region, while remaining constant to our core and traditional clients.”

In 2003 Blake Lapthorn merged with Oxford-based Linnells, where Lloyd-Jones was formerly senior partner. The firm has moved into new practice areas including biotech, environment and outsourcing.

South East firms: Rising 50
Firm Turnover (£m) Rev per partner(£K) Total partners
Lester Aldridge 16.0 400 40
Laytons 14.0 438 32
Moore & Blatch 14.0 875 16
Collyer-Bristow 13.0 394 33
Brachers 12.0 600 20
IBB 12.0 522 23
Davies Lavery 11.6 682 17
Stevens & Bolton 11.3 452 25
Fennemores 11.0 688 16
Thomson Snell & Passmore 11.0 355 31
Taylor Walton 10.8 450 24
Mundays 10.0 417 24
Source: The Lawyer

South East firms: UK 100
Firm Turnover (£m) PEP (£K) Total partners
Blake Lapthorn Linnell 30.0 125 69
Thomas Eggar 27.8 235 54
Penningtons 25.9 125 65
DMH Stallard 20.0 180 42
Cripps Harries Hall 19.4 146 35
ASB Law 18.2 130 43
Source: The Lawyer