Herbert Smith Freehills' revenue climbs 6% to £1.103bn in ninth consecutive year of growth

CEO Justin D’Agostino credits twin transactional and disputes 'engines' as PEP rises to £1.163m
Headshot of Justin D’Agostino

Justin D’Agostino

Herbert Smith Freehills has recorded a second year of healthy revenue growth, increasing fee income by 6% to hit £1.103bn with profit per equity partner (PEP) climbing at the same rate to reach £1.163m.

Total profit at the top 10 UK firm increased by 4% to £381.2m from the £366m recorded last year, when the firm celebrated the joint landmarks of recording revenue of more than £1bn – after a 5% rise – and PEP of more than £1m, PEP having bounced back from a 7.7% fall in 2019 to climb by 28%.

CEO Justin D’Agostino said this year’s results were “particularly pleasing” given that it successfully managed to build on the firm's achievements in 2021. He singled out the performance of the firm's transactional and disputes practices, which he referred to as the firm’s “twin engines”. 

That performance was anchored by work on more than 250 M&A deals worth more than $310bn in FY21/22 globally, and reaching the top ranking in M&A league tables for Australia, Asia Pacific and the UK for the full 2021 calendar year, the firm said. 

D’Agostino pointed to the firm’s work on Sydney Aviation Alliance’s $32bn enterprise value acquisition of Sydney Airport and on Engie’s €7.1 billion sale of Equans as two of the year’s key transactions.  

The firm’s offices in Australia, Hong Kong, New York, Belfast and the Middle East had “exceptional years” each with double-digit growth, while newer offices in Kuala Lumpur, Milan and a joint operation in Kewei, China, also contributed to the robust global financial performance, according to D’Agostino. 

“These achievements are down to standout teamwork, cross-border and cross-practice collaboration, as well as dedicated client service and deep client relationships,” he said. 

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The results single out the Anglo-Australian firm for both its scale and healthy profitability when compared to other UK-based international firms without a major presence in the US market. 

While PEP at Simmons & Simmons, which also unveiled its financial results today, has surpassed £1m for the first time this year, this is against less than half HSF's revenue; Ashurst, which is yet to post its 2022 financials, enjoys a similar PEP to HSF but last year recorded revenue of just £711m.

More highlights for HSF over the last financial year include its largest-ever partner promotion round, which saw 34 lawyers join the partnership across offices in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the UK and the US. Fourteen of the promoted lawyers were women (41%), an improvement on the firm’s previous round when 30% of the 30 promoted lawyers were women. HSF set a gender diversity target in 2019 for a 35% female partnership by 2023. 

The firm also brought lateral talent onboard. It hired financial services partners Maged Girgis and Andrew Bradley in Sydney from leading independent MinterEllison in February, a few months after it secured senior disputes partners Marc Gottridge and Lisa Fried from Hogan Lovells in New York. 

Last September, it secured a four-strong insurance team from DLA Piper in Düsseldorf and signed up Mayer Brown’s London head of insurance, Will Glassey, to help grow its law firm professional indemnity and regulatory practice in July.

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