Watson Burton puts brave face on profit dip

Watson Burton senior partner Robert Langley has said he is satisfied with his firm’s financial performance, despite its LLP accounts revealing that the highest-paid partner’s profit share dropped by 71 per cent in 2008-09.

Robert Langley
Robert Langley

The accounts, which were filed at Companies House, revealed that in 2007-08 the highest-paid partner took home £693,965, with the figure dropping to £200,060 a year later.

Over the same period fee income fell from £23m to £19.8m; gross profit went down from £11m to £2.9m; and operating profit fell from £6.8m to £4.1m.

Despite the figures ­Langley remained upbeat and said many other ­firms, particularly in the North East, were in a similar position.

“There aren’t many smiling faces during a recession,” he said. “Obviously we’d like a decent profit, but at the same time we don’t expect to make a lot of money in a downturn, so we don’t regard it as a cause for concern.

“We’re a commercial firm and clients have by and large had lower levels of activity, so there have clearly been lower levels of client demand. I imagine there’s a couple of hundred other firms in the same position.”

The firm has taken steps to halt its declining profit, among them stepping up its focus on employment, ­litigation and insolvency.

At the end of last year Watson Burton’s senior equity partners injected more than £1m into the firm to enable more junior ­partners to enter the equity ranks. The seven-strong ­senior equity group, which includes ­Langley, contributed around £125,000 each in a bid to make the equity ­partnership more accessible financially for ­junior lawyers (TheLawyer. com, 12 ­November 2009).