13 Jul 2021

Stephenson Harwood posts modest revenue drop as profitability rises 13%

Revenue at the top 50 UK firm dips to £209m as profit per equity partner bounces back to £685,000

Eifion Morris: 'We've seen several local and international law firm tie-ups in Singapore that haven't worked, but I can honestly say ours goes from strength-to-strength'

Stephenson Harwood’s revenue dipped by nearly 2% in the last financial year, making it the first UK top 50 firm to record a drop as financial reporting season gets underway.  

The London-headquartered firm’s revenue fell by 1.9% from £213m in 2019/20 to £209m in 2020/21, while profit per equity partner (PEP) hit £685,000. The firm did not disclose its PEP figure last year, but the latest number is down from its last reported PEP figure of £727,000 for the 2018/19 financial year. 

Stephenson Harwood’s PEP figure is comparable to that posted by UK rivals Pinsent Masons and Fieldfisher, which recently reported eye-catching 16% and 22% hikes in PEP, respectively.  

These latest financial results are the second set to come out under the leadership of chief executive Eifion Morris, who took the reins from Sharon White in late 2019. Commenting on the results, Morris said the firm’s strategic review of its Asia business, which resulted in it pulling out of Beijing last May, lent itself to a 13% increase in profitability for the latest financial year.  

Morris added that the “practical and commercial steps” taken by the firm resulted in it coming out of the year 8% higher than it budgeted, which he hailed as a “huge achievement.”  

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During the pandemic, Stephenson Harwood did not ask its employees to work reduced hours for reduced pay or take unpaid leave, which Morris said resulted in reciprocated commitment and loyalty on behalf of its lawyers and staff across its international network.  

He added that the firm’s priority going into the post-Covid world is reconnecting with clients and continuing its partner recruitment programme, as well as promoting from within its existing talent pool.  

Since the start of the last financial year, the firm has recruited 18 lateral hires and promoted 14 lawyers to its partnership, including four in Hong Kong — disputes specialists Alexander Tang, Elizabeth Sloane and Eloise Matsui and corporate lawyer Michelle Chung — as evidence of its commitment to China despite its strategic scale-back in Beijing.  

“These lawyers represent the future of the firm, and will no doubt play a key role in shaping what that will look like,” Morris said.  

Last week, UK-headquartered insurance firm Kennedys also posted its global revenue figures, with its annual turnover hitting £264m in the 12 months to the end of April, an 11% increase on the previous financial year. In its main UK market, revenue rose 8.5% to £151m.  

Meanwhile, international firm CMS’s UK growth inched up by a modest £1m t0 £567m against a 3% increase in revenue to €1.475bn across its global business.  

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