Lovells faces crash in profits as City trumpets revenue hike

Half-year results: Lovells’ billings falter as Slaughter and May posts 47 per cent turnover rise; Clifford Chance, Freshfields flat

Lovells partners are bracing themselves for disappointing half-year financial results as their City competitors are reporting an upturn in billings – with Slaughter and May leading the pack.

Lovells is understood to have posted £160m at the six-month stage, 6 per cent down on the previous year and running 21 per cent below budget.

Lovells sources said that if this figure was not improved by the year-end, it would translate into a reduction in partner profits of more than 20 per cent to £472,000.

The figures come at a time when Lovells is electing its new managing partner, the results of which are to be announced today (22 November). Sources say the firm’s financial performance will threaten its costly Asia operation. All overseas offices are subject to ongoing review, but it is understood that Tokyo and Singapore have never made a profit.

Six-month figures are not widely circulated in the larger City law firms, but The Lawyer can reveal that Lovells’ difficulties contrast with the transactional growth experienced by other major City practices.

Slaughters’ half-year figures were up 47 per cent to £155m after a stellar M&A performance in the first half. One Slaughters partner told The Lawyer: “We’ve had a thumping first six months, but we’re lumpier than Clifford Chance. We won’t necessarily sustain that for the rest of the year.”

Linklaters has grossed £376m at the half-year stage, up 6 per cent on the previous year, and the firm is understood to be ahead
of budget. Herbert Smith turned over £120m, a rise of just over 7 per cent.

Simmons & Simmons has also reported a strong first half, up 6.5 per cent to £90m. One Simmons partner predicted a 20 per cent uplift in profit per partner if the revenue growth was sustained.

Clifford Chance is understood to have turned over £460m, which is flat on the previous year and some 5 per cent below budget. One partner said: “Our costs are well down on last year.”

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is understood to have grossed £370m, with the first quarter down 5 per cent on the previous year but the second quarter making up for any shortfall.