HFW rings in record results as revenue grows 13% against 17.5% jump in PEP

Profit per equity partner hits £786k as UK-headquartered firm grows revenue in every group and region in first year of new strategy

Jeremy Shebson Image courtesy of HFW

Top 30 UK firm HFW has posted record results in the first year of its new strategy, growing revenue by more than 13% to £225.3m in the 12 months to the end of March against a 17.5% jump in profit per equity partner (PEP) to £786k.

The results are eye-catching given the flattening effect turbulent market conditions are having on growth at other firms and mark a strong rebound from the previous year for HFW, when exchange rate pressures and a cut in lawyer headcount during the pandemic saw its revenue dip by just under 1% to £198.7m and PEP fall 2% to £669k. 

Those results followed a record 2020/21 for the firm, which said it had increased global revenue by more than 60% since FY15, while net profit and PPL had both grown by nearly 50% over the past four financial years. 

This year HFW’s revenue per lawyer increased 9.1% to £455,000, while net profit rose 18.7% to £64.7m. Profit per lawyer (PPL) also saw double digit growth, increasing 14.9% to £131k. 

Firm managing partner Jeremy Shebson said: “Having decided to take a prudent approach during the pandemic, we introduced a new growth strategy at the beginning of FY23 seeking to build scale across our international network and broaden our offering to our major sector clients. These results represent a promising start to that strategy, as do the lateral hires that we’ve welcomed to the firm over the past 12 months.”

He added that the firm was “now looking to really push on and significantly expand our business”, including actively targeting leading partners and teams and further investing in its international network. 

The firm’s new strategy will see it seek to strengthen its offering in its core sectors of aerospace, commodities, construction, energy, insurance and shipping, and also focus on practice areas it views as complementary such as commercial litigation, finance, corporate, regulatory and employment, where it said it sees opportunities to broaden its offering to major industry clients.

The strategy saw the firm add 10 new partners through lateral hires in FY23, including shipping and offshore marine duo Ian Chung and Robert Lawrence in Dubai from Clyde & Co and Kevin Warburton in Hong Kong from local independent Tanner De Witt, where he was head of arbitration. The firm also bolstered its Perth office at the start of April with the hire of a trio of commercial disputes lawyers from Quinn Emanuel headed by top Australian litigator Paul Evans. 

HFW says it has handled more commercial litigation in the English Commercial Court than any other law firm over the past eight years and reports that around 70% of its total revenue in FY23 was generated by contentious matters, as is the case each year. 

The firm saw revenue gains in every group and region and highlighted the growth of its international network, which has almost doubled turnover since 2015 and now accounts for almost 60% of the firm’s total revenue. 

The firm’s international offering continued to fuel growth in FY23, with half of its office network achieving double-digit increases in revenue. It pointed to Australia and the Middle East as standout performers regionally, with revenue increases of 24% and 32% respectively. Meantime its London office – which moved to a new space at 8 Bishopsgate earlier this week – grew turnover by almost 16%. 

Giles Kavanagh, HFW’s global senior partner, said: “FY23 was our best-ever year financially by some distance – we set new standards in every metric that we measure. It was an excellent performance across the board and reflects the hard work and dedication of everyone at HFW, as well as the trust that our clients continue to place in our industry expertise – something that, as a sector-focused firm, we feel sets us apart in an increasingly competitive legal market.”

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