ONE fifth of firms surveyed in the The Lawyer's Top 100 decided to bite the bullet and take the lid off their fee earning figures for their most recent full financial year.
The list includes three from Leeds: Dibb Lupton, Hammond Suddards and Booth & Co – never afraid to take the lead. The major City names are predictably absent, but full credit for their openness goes to Baker & McKenzie, Davies Arnold Cooper, DJ Freeman and Penningtons.
Outside London, Shoosmiths & Harrison, which has blazed this trail by issuing its figures for some years, is joined by Manchester firms Addleshaws and Cobbett Leak Almond.
Generally, firms shielded their private parts, with responses to our queries ranging from "confidential" and "not divulged" to ignoring the question or even scoring it out lest some adverse inference be drawn.
So we thank those who came out. It is much healthier to provide correct figures voluntarily than be "outed", as with other estimates of firms' revenues. Hopefully, more firms will do this.
But nearly three quarters of Top 100 firms lifted their financial veils sufficiently to disclose that their fee income had increased. And 40 firms volunteered the rate at which it had risen. A good 40 per cent of these had respectable growth rates in the five to 10 per cent bracket, while nearly 30 per cent had creditable rates over this. The recession is well and truly over for some.
Further evidence of this comes from firms' recruitment plans. Again the split is much the same, with around three quarters of firms planning to take on more fee earners in the next 12 months.
Of the 40 or so firms estimating a figure, over half were growing by up to five per cent, while most of the other firms were increasing by up to 10 per cent.
These 40 firms account for 8,000 fee earners and their overall expectation is for a six per cent uplift in this figure, which is good news that is long overdue.