Linklaters trails key UK rivals in growth stakes as revenue rises 6.5% to £1.78bn

PEP grows 5.4% as firm achieves 'right combination of global coverage and high-quality cross practice expertise'
Portrait of Paul Lewis, Linklaters' new managing partner

Firmwide managing partner Paul Lewis

Linklaters has posted a 6.5% increase in revenue to £1.78bn against a 5.4% rise in profit per equity partner (PEP) to 1,869k in a set of financial results it has characterised as ‘strong’.

The results make it the slowest-growing of the four UK global Magic Circle firms in terms of revenue, with Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer recording growth of 10%, 8% and 7% respectively, all four firms having now pubished their results (see table).

And while its PEP increase was enough to beat A&O's 3% rise, it remains the lowest of the big four.

Pre-tax profit, meanwhile, climbed 6.9% to £871.7m. Profit per all partners (PPP) was £1.784m, a 4.5% increase on FY2021. The firm said the limited difference between its PEP and PPP figures reflected its ‘substantially all equity’ partnership model.

This year's results come off the back of a 10% PEP increase last year against a 2% increase in revenue. 

The UK Magic Circle 2022 Performance*Rev (£m)% ChangePEP (£k)% Change
Clifford Chance1,9698%2,040k10%
Allen & Overy1,94010%1,950k3%
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer1,7017%2,070k8%

Firmwide managing partner Paul Lewis said the “strong set of financial results” were “largely driven by increased revenues from robust markets and sustained deal activity over the past financial year”.

He added: “Our strategy is built on the premise that we will deliver profitable growth by excelling for clients. We are able to achieve this due to the quality, hard work and client-centric approach of our people.”

Read the Global Legal Post UK law firm financial results tracker

Of the four global Magic Circle firms, Freshfields and Allen & Overy have been grabbing the headlines thanks to a string of office openings in the US, with A&O attributing more than 50% of its revenue growth to an ‘exceptional’ performance stateside.

A&O overtook Linklaters in revenue terms in 2020 and has since stretched its lead to the point where it is challenging Clifford Chance.

Allen & Overy vs Linklaters by Revenue

 Allen & Overy (£bn)Linklaters (£bn)
20221.94 (10%)1.78 (6.5%)
20211.77 (5%)1.67 (2%)
20201.68 (4%)1.64 (1%)

Strategic highlights for Linklaters during the last financial year include a number of notable partner laterals in Asia, including that of Ashurst’s Tokyo M&A and Asia insurance sector lead, Tracy Whiriskey in April. Her arrival followed the firm adding a trio of leveraged finance specialists from Vinson & Elkins in London in March that included the US firm’s London head of finance and M&A-capital markets, Noel Hughes. 

And at the end of last year the firm re-hired its former China practice head, Betty Yap, in Hong Kong from Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison to co-head its financial sponsor group in the city. Financial regulation partner Carl Fernandes also rejoined the firm in Hong Kong from Latham & Watkins. 

Going the other way, the firm lost leveraged finance partners Annette Kurdian and Robert Burt to Allen & Overy in London last year, in a rare instance of lateral partner hires between Magic Circle firms.

Lewis said: “In a post pandemic world with growing political and economic uncertainty, our clients require complex legal solutions. The investments we have made over the year have ensured that we are able to provide the right combination of global coverage and high-quality cross practice expertise. To excel for our clients we need to be nimble, bold and decisive in our approach, which we will continue to be as we look ahead to the next financial year.”

On the legal innovation front, the firm has embarked on a drive to build a team of specialist practice innovation lawyers tasked with improving efficiency and the quality of client service.

The initiative is being led by Greg Baker, who was promoted to the new role of global head of practice innovation from his position as lead innovation lawyer for the corporate practice.

At the start of this year the firm gave contract automation platform CreateiQ brand primacy over its longstanding in-house tech start up Nakhoda as it looked to scale the product following its launch in February 2021.  

The firm’s efforts in terms of ESG saw it introduce a global menopause policy and a support package for employees who are directly or indirectly impacted by the menopause. And it promoted 17 women out of a total of 41 new partners in a promotions round in April that beat the target it set two years ago for at least 40% of promoted partners to be women.

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