HFW revenue passes £250m revenue milestone fuelling 8.8% rise in PEP

UK-headquartered firm grows revenue by 11.4% in second year of new strategy

Jeremy Shebson Image courtesy of HFW

Top 30 UK firm HFW has posted record results in the second year of its new strategy, growing revenue by 11.4% to £251m in the 12 months to the end of March against an 8.8% jump in profit per equity partner (PEP) to £855k.

The firm said that for the second consecutive year it had set new highs in every key revenue and profit metric, and in every group and region. Net profit grew by 16.5% to £75.4m, while profit per lawyer increased by more than 6% to £139k and revenue per lawyer inched up 1.6% to £462k.

The results follow a record 2022/23 for the 550-lawyer firm, which said it had increased global revenue by more than a quarter in the first two years of its growth strategy and by more than 40% over the past five years, without undertaking any largescale combinations or mergers during that time. Its net profit and PEP have risen by 74% and 81% respectively over the same five-year period.

HFW’s global senior partner, Giles Kavanagh, hailed the firm passing £250m in revenue as “a significant milestone”.  

“We are obviously very pleased with the firm’s continued performance in FY24, having once again achieved new highs in every metric that we measure,” he said. 

“While we’ve undergone significant expansion over recent years, we’ve been careful to keep a tight focus on our core sectors and to maintain our ‘one firm’ approach, which is an important part of our culture. Our growth really is all about our clients and adding top-quality capability in services and locations that make sense for them, and that will enable us to provide them with a better, more rounded offering.”

HFW’s strategy aims to establish it as the world’s leading sector-focused law firm. To support that the firm is moving to boost its offering in its core sectors of aerospace, commodities, construction, energy, insurance and shipping. It will also build scale across its international network; and continue to develop complementary practice areas such as commercial disputes, finance, corporate, regulatory and employment, where the firm said it sees opportunities to broaden its offering to its major clients.

This has led to 17 lateral partner hires in FY24 and six in the first two months of FY25. Six of these partner hires have been into HFW’s global construction practice, which has doubled in size over the past two years, with recent arrivals including London partner Tom Hutchison, who joined from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and a team in Hong Kong from MinterEllison, led by partners Steven Yip and Malcolm Chin. 

The firm’s disputes practice, which like in previous years generated around 70% of total revenue in FY24, was also bolstered with hires including an eight-lawyer team in Australia from Clyde & Co led by senior litigation funding partner Maurice Thompson and an international arbitration team in Paris from Eversheds Sutherland led by partners Julien Fouret and Gaëlle Le Quillec.

HFW continued to expand its global transactional offering in FY24, including bringing in a 20-lawyer corporate team in Australia from MinterEllison. It also boasts one of the largest ship finance practices in Greece after adding an eight-lawyer team from Ince in Piraeus. 

The firm’s international expansion efforts also saw it open an office in Shenzhen to support its clients in China’s burgeoning Greater Bay Area, the firm’s 21st office globally. 

HFW said its international network continued to fuel growth in FY24, with more than half of its offices achieving double-digit increases in revenue. Its non-UK turnover has more than doubled since FY15 and in FY24 accounted for almost 60% of total revenue. 

The firm pointed to rapid growth in its 100-lawyer Australia practice, where the addition of eight new partners since the start of FY24 helped revenue grow by a third. Meantime Middle East revenue grew by nearly a quarter in FY24 and is up more than 60% over the past two years. Recent hires include Dubai construction partner Slava Kiryushin and Abdulrahman Al-Ohaly in Riyadh, who both joined from DWF. 

The fifth consecutive year of growth in the firm’s London office saw turnover there pass £100m for the first time. Key hires over the course of the year included Crowell & Moring’s head of insurance, Mark Meyer, and Peter Coles, who joined from the APAC head of aviation role at Clyde & Co. 

HFW’s managing partner, Jeremy Shebson, commented: “This was another encouraging year for HFW, with strong performances in each of our groups and across our international network. That reflects the trust of our clients in our sector expertise – which we believe differentiates us in an increasingly crowded legal market – as well as the hard work and dedication of the professionals that we’re fortunate to have.

“We’ve welcomed some outstanding additions in recent years, and we feel like we’re really starting to build some momentum. Our intention now is to ramp things up and aggressively target partners, teams and even bolt-on acquisitions. If you have a leading practice in one of our core sectors, anywhere in the world, and want to join a true partnership that operates as one firm globally, come and talk to us.”

HFW’s results are in line with other firms that have published their numbers so far as UK financial reporting season gets underway, with Kennedys growing revenue 17% to a new high of £384m and Osborne Clarke by 19% to a record €525m. The results likely set the tone for a more robust set of results among the top 50 UK firms given the upturn in global deal markets.

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