Survey shows firms work harder for less

Law firms have been taking on more work but are being paid less, a recent survey reveals.

Extra revenue from growth in 1994 has been partly wiped out by price-cutting, according to the latest survey by the Centre for Interfirm Comparison.

Statistics show that the profession is gradually moving out of recession and the signs look good for 1995.

But competition remains tough and although some firms are taking on extra fee-earners, lawyers are being paid less.

Salaries have stagnated with assistant solicitors paid an average of u22,500 in the provinces and u31,500 in London.

Commercial pressures have also forced firms to manage their cash better, reduce the amount of unbilled work and to collect cash more promptly.

Technology has also had an impact with firms now employing one third less support staff than they did five years ago.

In London, last year's nil growth has shot up by an average five per cent but overall profit margins are slightly down at 14 per cent. But the additional volume of work has seen partner profit rises from u72,000 to u84,000.

Provincial firms will be encouraged by a nine per cent growth in revenue but charges have come under pressure. Average hourly rates for partners are down slightly on last year to u108.

Firms in the North were more profitable with a typical profit of u37,000 per partner compared to u22,000 in the South East, after a u35,000 notional salary.