Dundas & Wilson and Brodies still making large profits despite downturn

by Damien Henderson
© The Herald
Originally published: 27.08.2008
Scottish law firms have posted huge profits over the past year in spite of the economic downturn that has engulfed the UK economy.

In a survey of the UK's 100 largest law firms, equity partners at Scottish companies made an average of 343,000 profit, a 4% increase on the previous year, according to Legal Business magazine.

However, despite the current "rude health" of the UK's legal profession, the magazine warned that Scottish companies were among those which would face uncertainty as the UK's economic woes continue.

Among the companies that appear to be thriving amid the credit crunch are Dundas & Wilson - Scotland's largest law firm - which saw a 23% increase in turnover to 74.8m.

The firm's profit margin of 41% was the largest of the top 10 Scottish companies included in the survey. Equity partners at the firm - those that take a share in profits - made an average of 379,000 each.

This year also saw Brodies, Scotland's fastest-growing law firm, see its turnover increase by 23% to 37m compared to last year.

However, Tods Murray saw a drop in turnover for the second consecutive year, taking the company out of the Legal Business top 100 list.

James Baxter, editor of Legal Business, said: "Taken at face value the UK legal community looks to be in rude health: UK firms compete well overseas, firms are billing well and clients are broadly happy paying.

But dark clouds are on the horizon.

"Managing partners from some of the UK's largest firms have told Legal Business that they would be happy to achieve zero growth in the next 12 months, meaning that most are expecting to report a drop in profitability for the first time in a decade.

"The credit crunch, whilst not showing much impact on this year's figures, has UK law firms worried.

"There are precious few deals being done, the usually lucrative financial services markets have dried-up, and the commercial property market has all but stalled."