HFW sees revenue and PEP dip after setting record in 2021

Firm points to impact of exchange rates and headcount reduction for the slowdown

Giles Kavanagh Image courtesy of HFW

Top 30 UK firm HFW saw its revenue decline marginally over the past financial year, putting the dip down to exchange rate pressures and a cut in lawyer headcount during the pandemic.

Total revenue fell 0.8% to £198.7m in the 12 months to the end of March, though revenue per lawyer hit a record £417,000 over the same period – a 1% jump on a year earlier and a 14% increase over the past three years. The firm said revenue would have increased 2.3% to £204.9m had it not been for the exchange rate moves given that 60% of HFW’s total revenue is generated outside of the UK. 

The slight dip in revenue also comes after a bumper 2020/21 financial year when the firm set new records for revenue and profit.

While revenue per lawyer increased over the past 12 months, profit per equity partner (PEP) fell by 2% to £669,000 – though that is still the second highest PEP on record and £125,000 more than the next highest set in 2018. Since 2015, the firm’s revenue and PEP have increased by at least 40%, HFW said.

The results are comparable to close rival Clyde & Co, which saw revenue inch up by 1.6% against a marginal fall in PEP to £708,000 from £715,000. Clydes also pointed to the impact of currency fluctuations.

Jeremy Shebson, HFW’s managing partner, said: “Having taken a prudent approach to managing the business throughout the pandemic, and to a certain extent putting our growth on hold, we are now looking to really ramp things up.”

The firm has already been eyeing growth in Australia, where revenue increased by almost 8% over the past financial year. The firm has added 10 new partners across its Melbourne, Perth and Sydney offices since 2020, including a three-strong disputes team from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in April.

Giles Kavanagh, HFW’s global senior partner, said the firm is seeking to increase new recruits as well as potential tie-ups with boutique firms.

He said: “Our goal is clear: we want to build a world-beating sector-focused law firm. We have ambitious plans to develop the range of services we deliver to clients across our sectors. We want to nurture and bring in the very best talent globally.”

The firm made 13 lateral hires in the 2021/22 financial year, including high profile arrivals such as Barry Vitou, who joined in October from Greenberg Traurig, where he was global co-chair of its white collar defence and special investigations practice and its London office head.

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