Law Firm of the Year
The most outstanding UK law firms, either offshore or onshore, of the last 12 months make the shortlist in this, our most prestigious award. Judges will be looking for firms that have taken the market by storm and have achieved more than their direct competitors and peers. Achievements may include the successful development of new practice areas, expansion into new international or domestic markets, new client wins, the completion of a strategic merger or acquisition, improved financial performance, or a successful recruitment policy.
Announcing the winner 5 October 2020
Back in 2014, not many – if any – would have predicted Addleshaw Goddard would boast one of the highest percentage growth rates in profit per equity partner (PEP) across the Legal Business 100 over the next five years. But with PEP increasing 13% to £730,000 in the 2018/19 financial year, it has risen an impressive 87% over that time.
DAC has turned things around after a period of drift, clearing nearly £40m of debt in the last four years. Revenue at the firm grew 6% to £243m in the year to 30 April 2019, building on an 11% uptick the previous year, and coupled with a 10% increase in profit to £52m. Profit per equity partner similarly increased 8% to £570,000.
Eversheds Sutherland was the only firm in the top ten of the LB100 to record double-digit revenue growth in 2018/19, building on its 2017 transatlantic merger with a 14% revenue uptick to £890.2m while PEP rose 8% to £886,000. The US project has been a clear success and accordingly, the firm started the current financial year with launches in Chicago and San Diego.
Harbottle & Lewis
The firm has enjoyed a particularly strong run of form over the last five years and 2019 was another exceptional year, with revenue up 8% to £38.5m – double what it was six years ago. The increase in top line hasn’t occurred at the expense of profitability – the firm ranks 14th in LB100 across key metrics.
Kirkland & Ellis
Described by Legal Business as ‘an evolutionary force in a raw Darwinian sense’, the world’s highest-grossing law firm and one of the fastest-growing firms continues to polarise opinion, not only because it struck out on its own but also because its success has further exposed the soft underbelly of many top-tier firms in New York and London.
One of UK law’s success stories of the past five years is undoubtedly Osborne Clarke, which has increased its top line 89% since 2013/14 to £268.5m, the second-best five-year performance in the UK top 100 – off the back of its international expansion. Although its PEP growth stalled in 2018/19, it has risen 37% since 2014 to £703,000.
This City outlier marked a tenth consecutive year of revenue growth in 2018/19 with an 11% increase in turnover. Revenue at the firm grew to £162.5m for the 2018/19 financial year – good for growth of just under 70% over the past five years – while PEP hit £1.25m. Since 2009, Travers has grown from being a £64.5m business.
Previous Winners / Nominees
Pinsents is no slouch in financial performance terms – in the last five years revenue has grown 40% and profit by 60% – but it is committed to be judged by a broader set of yardsticks. This is why in the last 12 months it has renewed its sole adviser mandates with key clients Balfour Beatty and E.ON, and achieved a 93% ‘likeliness to recommend’ score in an independently run client feedback programme.
Kirkland & Ellis HIGHLY COMMENDED
David Higgins, Stephen Lucas
Kirkland has set the pace on both sides of the Atlantic, becoming the highest grossing law firm in the world. In 2018 the firm continued its remarkable run, not least in London which saw a bumper partner promotion round and the lateral hire of Adrian Maguire from Freshfields, a year after its market-defining move for David Higgins.
In 2017/18, CC emerged as the strongest-performing Magic Circle firm in the LB100. The only firm among London’s big four to have retained its position in the LB100 table, Clifford Chance added £83m to its top line to hit £1.623bn. But it was the 16% surge in profit per equity partner (PEP) to £1.6m where CC edged ahead of its rivals.
Harbottle & Lewis
Harbottle maintained its status as one of London’s fastest-growing law firms, continuing its recent trend of double-digit growth and proving itself as a LB100 standout. Overall revenue increased by 26% to £35.5m, up from £28.1m last year, while PEP increased by 32% to £670,000. Over the last five years, the firm has seen revenues grow 48% and profit by 86%.
Another standout performance came from Macfarlanes in 2018, which broke the £200m barrier after a remarkable 20% uptick in turnover to £201.5m. The firm also cemented its position as one of the most profitable operators in the Square Mile, increasing PEP by 26% to £1.74m, higher than most of the Magic Circle.
Simmons & Simmons
Simmons turned in its strongest set of results since the banking crisis, hiking revenues 12% to £354m. Amid a year of sustained foreign expansion into Dublin and Luxembourg in particular, the firm also saw PEP grow 8% to £686,000. This organic revenue growth was higher than anticipated and due to high demand in its core sectors of funds, financial institutions, healthcare and life sciences and TMT – proof that Simmons has its playbook right.