Herbert Smith Freehills: Partner profits slip by nearly 10% to £857,000

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Taylor Wessing also records drop

Herbert Smith Freehills has published its latest set of financial results, recording a 10% drop in partner profits.

The global player posted revenues of £989.9 million, up 2.5% on the previous financial year. Profit per equity partner (PEP), however, is down 9.7% to £857,000 from £949,000, as is profit — £283.2 million from £306.7 million, a cut of 7.7%.

“It is encouraging that we achieved another year of revenue growth, underlying the core strength of our business,” commented Justin D’Agostino, who took over as chief executive officer in May. “While profitability fell from last year, it reflects our second highest year of profitability performance.”

D’Agostino said revenue growth would have been stronger but for the onset of COVID-19, which saw the firm reduce partner profit distributions, suspend salary reviews and delay the start dates of its future trainee solicitors.

The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

D’Agostino continued:

“While the Covid crisis has required significant adjustments across the firm to how we work, I am delighted to say that our performance through the challenges it has brought has so far exceeded all our expectations.”

Elsewhere, international law firm Taylor Wessing revealed a 7.6% uplift in global revenues to £365.6 million. But PEP dropped 6.5% to £612,640, while UK profits fell by almost 8% to £57.6 million.

Shane Gleghorn, UK managing partner, said: “This year, we’ve invested significantly in our business. While the final quarter was made difficult by the crisis, we have seen the benefit of our investment in tech and people, even more so in recent months. Our tech investment has supported agile working for our people, and has deepened our client relationships.”

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Pied Piper

My heart bleeds.


Ed W

100k NQ salary but lower PEP just shoes that HSF care about their junior lawyers lower down in the ranks. Good on them


Hsf insider

1. It’s not 100k – it’s 90k
2. They had an awful retention rate this cycle – around 60%. I think the vast majority of trainees would prefer a few grand less in exchange for significantly higher retention

Sad firm!



That is seriously worrying news. I’m almost speechless.



I don’t know why HSF is so highly rated by people here – it’s firmly in league with the likes of ashurst (which actually posted higher pep 2 years in a row now) not just off the MC


FF is King/Queen

It’s a second tier-firm. Without litigation it has nothing going for it



Lmao what are you smoking bro, a shop like Assbursts don’t come anywhere near a powerhouse like HSF



Then why is “assbursts” more profitable???



Loooooooooooooool it aint you moron


FF is King/Queen

HSF are trash


Where's my new Lambo?

How will those poor souls survive?



Where would you rank HSF in the silver circle?


Anon 2

I would argue that the silver circle doesn’t really exists but it’s in the tier below the MC alongside HL, ashurst etc


FF is King/Queen

It’s a second tier-firm. Without litigation it has nothing going for it.


Magic Square

Silver circle is really:

Macs/TS Equal footing






I know people are complaining but I’m sure most lawyers would prefer working for a firm like HSF where they can earn 90k and over as an NQ and associate where the PEP is slightly lower compared to say DLA who have consistently very high PEP but their NQs are only on 78k.

Like the comment said above, what’s the point working for a firm with a high PEP when the lawyers lower down the ranks aren’t getting paid the salaries matched across the city



DLA is always an interesting one to discuss because their equity partners must take it in but the NQs are only on 78k…



Because as an NQ at HSF you’re going to be working SIGNIFICANTLY more hours than a mid tier firm like DLA. The extra dollar is just not worth it.


PEP Monitor

Miles off the US shops.


HSF is life

But but they pay £105k nq salary… ??? ?



You make that as an NQ but the salary progression is pretty stagnant after that point. Also if you see the firm and law as a long term career it’s pretty crappy to work your way up to make the lowest salary across the city firms as a senior associate/partner.

Imagine starting on the highest NQ salary amongst your legal peers only for them to surpass you a few years down the line


HSF is life

I agree, I was being sarcastic



The retention rate at DLA is based on an overall figure across all of its UK offices and might not be reflective of the office you’ve been offered a TC with. London Office has the highest number of TCs and NQ places and the retention is likely to be higher there than say a smaller regional DLA office where only a couple trainees are retained after their TC.

Retention is a concern for every trainee at all firms once they begin their GDL/LPC and TC but it’s kind of like the vacation scheme in the sense that if you’re good enough and strategic in your decisions during the TC you will be kept on after the 2 years training is done.

Also, you mentioned the NQ salary and whether it’s likely to increase… in all honestly… probably not. DLA has very high PEP but the problem is if the London NQ salary is increased the regional offices will want a raise too but that’s not not practical. So to keep all offices happy they have to keep it at a level playing field, but you don’t have this issue with firms that just have one UK London based office. If salary is something that is important to you, then you can always apply to external NQ positions elsewhere at a higher paying firm. If you have a LinkedIn stalk there are plenty of lawyers at US firms who trained at DLA and jumped ship straight after the TC was complete. Or you can stay with the firm after qualification and get about 3-5 years PQE and then jump ship. If you pick the right kind of seats you will have opportunities elsewhere.

Taylor Wessing, B&B and Mischon are all great firms but more specialised in IP and tech etc whereas DLA is full service and does a bit of everything. Something to think about.



The NQ salary at DLA is slightly lower in comparison to the Silver Circle firms in the city but that’s probably because the working hours and work-life balance is better. You might end up liking that lifestyle and realise it’s worth more to you than the extra 20k+ you’d make at a US/MC firm



From what I’ve seen on LinkedIn it seems like DLA have already handed out TC offers and the vac schemers have accepted them so I’m assuming you’ve already accepted the offer and are planning on rescinding the offer to accept the Taylor Wessing/B&B/Mischon. In that case I would advise against it.

You’re worried about retention but if the firm comes to know you’ve got your eyes set on other firms already and are choosing firms based on higher NQ salary then it might dim your chances of being retained during the TC. I know trainees who were too obsessed with getting ‘better firm’ NQ offers but ended up with neither.


Sam J

Taylor Wessing and Mischon haven’t handed out their TC offers yet but conveniently… Bird & Bird did a few days ago.

My educated guess tells me that you have a few weeks to decide on whether or not to accept the B&B offer but also have the DLA one. But over the last couple of weeks I have seen the posts from DLA future trainees who accepted their offers.

Something isn’t adding up here. How have you managed to get an extended deadline for DLA when everyone else has already accepted? Second year students get until September but you’re a final year student, at least that’s what your LinkedIn says


Amy W

DLA Piper have a large overall intake across its UK/Ireland offices but individually in each office there is a small intake and all of the trainees know each other very well and having done an insight scheme with the firm I know for certain that it’s got quite a tight knit and friendly culture despite being biglaw.

Why am I telling you this since you probably already know? Well you have just made yourself look like a fool. You haven’t even started your LPC yet or had your formal trainee induction with the firm but your trainee cohort will know this about you beforehand. It’s a small cohort of around 20 ish trainees in London each year at DLA and you will be starting off with a bad reputation because of this.

Here is a little piece of advice for you: law firms (even the biggest firms) are small places and your name will spread like wildfires for making mistakes or doing/saying something you shouldn’t. At law firms there is to some extent a gossip culture as in all office jobs and the last thing you should do is draw attention to yourself for the wrong reasons.


Emily B

I don’t think he has taken your spot per se if you both applied for different offices but I do see your point about how it comes across like he’s robbed someone in that same office of an offer when he’s clearly planning to renege on his acceptance and choose the other firm.

If L.J was more interested in the other firm (B&B) then the right thing would have been to inform graduate recruitment or HR beforehand so they could have made that offer to another vac schemer. Unfortunately, you do come across individuals like that.


Associate Magician

Yikes. No one is entitled to a TC offer and the legal profession has no obligation to go around handing out jobs to anyone that thinks they deserve one.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and make yourself a better candidate. We’ve almost all experienced rejection but the ones that succeed aren’t the ones that whine about others’ successes. Good luck.



I don’t think that 2020 Intern was saying that he took her spot since they both applied to different offices of the same firm. But it is more the fact that he accepted a firm offer only to then go back on it and accept the next one he got. That original offer could have been made to somebody else. It’s a numbers game at the end of the day.

There is a problem amongst aspiring solicitors who try to stockpile Training Contract offers for the sake of doing so despite the fact they already have a TC offer from a firm they want to work at. They delay the acceptance so they can get other offers.

But I do see the point you are making, if you work hard enough you will get in. However, I do strongly believe it is a numbers game and these things do matter.


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