The Lawyer Publishes First Analysis of Law Firm Debt Levels

Mexican PesosI blogged recently that I was impressed with the way in which The Lawyer has developed its range of surveys.

They’re doing more in-depth regional pieces such as this recent Africa special.

And now the first-ever debt rankings of the top UK firms.

There’s some fascinating information in here for anyone interested in law firm management.

The report looks at the debt position of some of the largest firms in the UK legal market, with data taken from 153 LLP accounts.

Only 44 of the 153 firms studied had no net debt listed – including all four “Magic Circle” firms.

Herbert Smith Freehills had the highest level of debt – a whopping £125 million.

Law firms superficially look the same, but even firms with similar headline financials such as revenue and profits can look very different under the hood.

In the US, there are conservatively managed firms firms such as McDermott Will & Emery and K&L Gates that make a virtue out of their no-debt status, while firms at the other end like Dewey were so fond of debt, they issued bonds.

That’s why this survey is so timely, as it lifts the lid on a corrosive aspect of law firm finances.

Yes, debt can fuel growth and expansion, but it can kill firms as well.

I’d like to see an equivalent of this for US firms – either by The Lawyer or one of the US-based publishers.

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