SAMPLE Euro 100 2020
The Lawyer’s European 100 is the only in-depth report into the legal market across the whole of Continental Europe, focusing on the finances and strategies
European 100 2020
Setting the scene for this report
Interviews and research for the European 100 this year took place in the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, with most of Europe locked down and managing partners and communications teams engaged in intense crisis management.
We are grateful to all those firms that were able to provide data for the report at this busy time, and to those who were able to spare some time for an interview despite the crisis.
However, a higher number of firms than usual did not engage with requests for data and we have therefore estimated headcount and turnover for these firms, sending the estimates to them in advance. All estimates are, as usual, clearly marked.
Right now, 2019 seems like a very long time ago. For most independent law firms in Europe, it was a solid, rather unexceptional 12 months. Some firms reviewed their strategies or appointed new management and a couple carried out mergers and launched new offices – but by and large, it was not a year that will particularly stand out in history books.
The combined turnover of the European 100 firms continued to rise in 2019. After breaking through €10bn for the first time in 2018, the collective revenue of the 100 firms appearing in this year’s report increased further, to €10.94bn. That is a 5.2 per cent increase from 2018, marking continued growth, albeit a slowdown from the 6.5 per cent change recorded last year.
Expressed in euros, and discounting local currency changes in Swiss francs and Danish, Norwegian and Swedish kroner, the vast majority – 82 firms – said turnover had risen at least a little last year. Three firms have, or were estimated to have, no change in revenue, and the remaining 15 firms reported declining turnover last year.
The average year-on-year turnover rise for the 100 firms was 4.9 per cent in 2019.
The vast majority – 82 firms –
said turnover had risen at least a
little last year
The average number of lawyers and staff working at each firm rose too, with recruitment slightly accelerating compared to 2018. In that year the European 100 had a total headcount of 46,621, up 3 per cent compared to 2017. Last year, total headcount rose to 48,077, up 3.1 per cent.
Qualified lawyer numbers inched up. For the second year running, the European 100 had over 25,000 lawyers, but the total rose just 2.1 per cent from 25,031 to 25,556. That followed 4 per cent growth in lawyer numbers in 2018.
Average revenue per lawyer (RPL) in 2019 stood at €449,800, up 2.5 per cent from €439,000 in 2018. Average revenue per partner (RPP) inched up 1.3 per cent to €1.62m from €1.6m in 2018.
Partner numbers rose at about the same rate as lawyer numbers last year, with the total increasing 2.2 per cent from 7,388 in 2018 to 7,554 in 2019. That means that the proportion of lawyers who are partners has remained essentially stable after declining in 2018, at 29.6 per cent – just up from 29.5 per cent the previous year.
A majority of firms saw lawyer headcount rise last year, with 61 posting an increase. A total of 17 firms reported a double-digit increase in lawyer headcount year-on-year. However, over a third (34 firms) said lawyer numbers had dropped between 2018 and 2019, and nine had a double-digit decrease in lawyer numbers. The number of firms with decreasing lawyer headcount was up last year.
Meanwhile, 62 firms said partner headcount had increased last year, seven said there was no change, and 30 reported a decrease. This was a significant change from 2018, when a slight majority of firms reported no change or a decrease in their partner numbers.
We do not have year-on-year headcount data for new entrant Simonsen Vogt Wiig.
European 100 2020
As noted in the overview to this report, 2019 was a fairly unexceptional year for many firms financially, and the same could be said strategically. Many firms’ current strategic plans took them through to 2020, meaning they were either beginning the process of reviewing strategy last year or preparing to do so in the current year.
Interviewing managing partners for the European 100 this year was an unusual process, as we were asking them to look back at 12 fairly ordinary months in the middle of the greatest global health and economic crisis of our lifetimes.
The Lawyer’s editorial team interviewed well over half of the 100 firms in the ranking for this year’s report. If one trend stood out, it was that many managing partners were breathing a sigh of relief that their business continuity plans had held up and allowed them to move daily operations to a remote footing. The vast majority spoke to us from their homes, with only a handful of firms still keeping offices open amid the coronavirus pandemic.
No firm reported major issues with switching to remote working
And so the enduring topic of technological investment was one of the principal trends to stand out in this year’s interviews. Europe has been slower than the UK in particular to adopt flexible or remote working policies, but in the last couple of years most Continental firms have refreshed their hardware and systems to enable more home working.
The globalised world we were living in before the coronavirus is likely to look quite different when the outbreak passes, and this may have an impact on future workflows for independent European firms.
We asked firms to tell us what proportion of their instructions, and what percentage of income, they derived from cross-border work last year. Of those who responded, the majority said cross-border instructions accounted for between 26 and 50 per cent of their work.
Schoenherr enjoyed a good 2019, posting a revenue rise of 5.2 per cent from €80.3m to €84.5m. The firm has now seen 16.6 per cent turnover growth in the past five years, from €72.5m in 2015.
Austria and Poland were the standout jurisdictions but the firm said it had seen growth across all its geographical locations and practice groups.
Revenue per lawyer stood at €261,600 last year, up 1.3 per cent from €258,200 the previous year. Revenue per partner rose 2.8 per cent from €1.91m to €1.97m.
The firm said it had seen growth across all its geographical locations and practice groups
Headcount was up a little, with total numbers rising from 575 to 582. Lawyer numbers were up more substantially, from 311 to 323 – a rise of 3.9 per cent. The firm added one partner, bringing the total number of partners to 43 from 42, including 31 equity partners.
It saw a net gain of one female partner too, and its six female partners represented 14 per cent of the partnership – up from 11.9 per cent the previous year. There were three female equity partners. Women represented 47.4 per cent of Schoenherr’s lawyers, up from 46.9 per cent the previous year.
Schoenherr said all practice groups had seen an increase in turnover. Corporate accounted for 30 per cent of revenue last year (€25.4m), and regulatory, compliance and competition brought in 18 per cent.
Both the real estate and disputes teams contributed 14 per cent of the top line, with finance adding 11 per cent.
Schoenherr opened its second Austrian office in November 2019
Schoenherr opened its second Austrian office in November 2019, launching in Linz, to take advantage of the city’s status as a technology and innovation hub.
It reappointed its strategic committee, adding one member to cover HR issues. Previously, managing partner Michael Lagler had been responsible for HR, but the volume of work this created was too high. Chief operating officer Gudrun Stangl, also on the management committee, was promoted to equity partner.
European 100 2020
The importance of Continental Europe for global firms has ebbed and flowed in recent years.
In 2017, international firms opened more than 20 new offices on the Continent, but that rush of enthusiasm has since waned and last year saw only nine launches by six global firms – while five firms closed down in a European jurisdiction.
Collectively, the largest 30 international firms in Europe hired 204 individuals at partner level across Continental Europe in 2019, representing nearly a quarter (23.7 per cent) of all their partner-level hires worldwide.
Meanwhile, data gathered by The Lawyer shows the top 30 global firms promoted more partners in Europe (excluding the UK) in 2019 than in any of the preceding five years, with 169 promotions on the Continent by these firms.
Turning to laterals first: in 2019, firms hired new partners across 20 Continental European countries, from Ireland across to Russia and from Norway down to Italy and Spain.
Germany and France together accounted for over half of these hires, with 63 partners recruited by the global top 30 in Germany (30.9 per cent of European hires) and 44 recruited in France (21.6 per cent).
The Benelux region was also a key focus for a number of firms, with a total of 31 hires last year – 17 in the Netherlands, seven in Luxembourg and seven in Belgium.