Remember the height of the boom? Back then it wouldn’t have been uncommon to hear groans emitted from groups of property partners quaffing Chablis in one of London’s finest watering holes or basking in the sun between meetings on the Croisette of Cannes at Mipim.
It wasn’t just their wallets and waistlines that were whimpering.
Partners were wondering why they were working their socks off trying to bump up the profits of their colleagues in non-transactional departments.
With most firms reporting drops in overall turnover last year of between five and 10 per cent and attendant falls in average profit of around a third, you’re unlikely to hear such comments from property partners this year.
Turnover at the UK’s 20 largest property practices fell by an average of a fifth in the 2008-09 financial year (see story). Revenue per partner at the normally high-billing top five practices dropped from an average of £2.33m to £1m.
Nevertheless, cuts in partner numbers are not expected to be quite so dramatic. As one City recruiter puts it: “The axe hasn’t fallen on real estate as much as finance, private equity or mainstream corporate because as an asset class it may not take as long to come back.”
If that’s the case then perhaps it won’t be that long before those same partners are bemoaning the partnership model once more.
For the full picture on the property market see The Lawyer UK 200 Annual Report in September.