Profits at top 20 firm Simmons & Simmons leapt 12% last year as economic conditions in the UK and the rest of Europe improved. The international firm reported profit before tax of £75.3m for the year ending 30 April 2014, compared with £68.6m the year before.

The firm had already reported a 9% increase in turnover, from £248m to £266m.

A financial report filed with Companies House today reveals that financial markets was the firm's biggest practice group, accounting for 38.8% of income. Dispute resolution (30.7%), corporate and commercial (22.2%) and employment (8.3%) were the other major sectors.

In financial commentary accompanying the report, the firm said it continued to maintain 'tight controls' on costs, with a particular focus on lock-up management. This has resulted in the firm's capital loan being reduced by £8m during the year.

Overall, outstanding amounts due to creditors within one year fell from £57m to £51m, with an £11m bank overdraft and loan virtually wiped out.

While the report acknowledged improving conditions here and on the continent, it warned that pressure on fee rates will continue and the firm is 'proceeding on the basis that this will remain the case'.

The firm outlined plans to continue to expand in south-east Asia, having opened an office in Singapore during the year. However, the report states that the Chinese market has been 'more challenging' with greater competition and a more conservative approach to outbound investment.

Average monthly staff numbers have increased from 1,218 to 1,262, of which 593 are fee-earners. The group has a further 166 members, of which 52 are fixed equity members.

Staff costs rose from £108m to £112m and the highest-paid member received £1m for 2013/14, up from £800,000 the previous year.

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