43-partner West End firm Howard Kennedy has experienced a slight drop in turnover in its last financial year. The current figure of £18.5m is down 2.6 per cent on the previous year (The Lawyer, 19 August). Managing partner Trevor Newey claims that it is due to a reduction in corporate work post-11 September. “We're happy with what we have achieved. It just hasn't gone up,” he says.
Average profits per partner are £240,000. More than 40 per cent of turnover is derived from property, 30 per cent from corporate-commercial, 20 per cent from litigation and the rest from media and entertainment and private client. “Unless the partners have a change of heart, I don't think we'd like to be any larger than 150 fee-earners,” says Newey. “We rather like to know each other. Any larger and you can become segregated. That, and cross-fertilisation, is one of our strengths.”
In the past eight years the firm has grown from 20 to 100 fee-earners. Although the majority of the growth has been organic, two significant mergers have bolstered the firm's membership. In 1999, Malkins was brought in and then in 2000, Peter James & Co added a further team of three, including two partners. In addition, four partners have been made up in the last 18 months.
The 1990s recession led Howard Kennedy to broaden its horizons from domestic to international. “We never want to have all our eggs in one basket again,” Newey says. Of the firm's turnover, 25 per cent comes from abroad. It includes property, project work, trade finance and litigation.
Newey says: “Some years ago we decided that we wanted to provide a more broad-based support to property clients with banking and property finance. Only two years ago we chose two other disciplines – media and entertainment and employment.” Brian Eagles, formerly at Hammonds heads the media and entertainment team of four. Andrea Nicholls joined from Speechly Bircham a year ago to launch the employment department, which now focuses on the airline sector. These two new areas are the fastest-growing in terms of revenue.
Newey thinks that geography plays a great part in the firm's success. “If you're going to have international revenue and you have international clients, are they going to go to Newcastle? It is about position.”
Howard Kennedy has been representing the Kuwait Air Corporation (KAC) in the long-running case against Iraqi Airways Company (IAC). A groundbreaking decision has now been reached that the incorporation of the KAC fleet of aircraft was in flagrant violation of the rules of international law. This leaves the way open for a money judgment. Other clients include The Sport Entertainment & Media Group plc and French footballers Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Petit.