UK: Wragge & Co LLP Turnover Up 2% With Highest Ever Profits
Last Updated: 13 May 2003

Wragge & Co’s fee income for the 2003 year end is £79.3 million, an increase of 2 per cent on the previous year’s £77.8 million. Profit of £27 million is the highest ever delivering a margin of 34 per cent and profits per partner of £255,000 for Wragge & Co’s all equity partnership of 106 – up 8.5 per cent on last year’s £235,000. According to senior partner Quentin Poole the turnover was ‘a satisfying result’ considering the challenging trading conditions for clients while profit – historically seen by some as a ‘chink in the firm’s armour’ – has enjoyed a ‘significant and healthy turnaround’. Despite the economic slowdown the firm has made some major investments in its future over the last twelve months. In addition to four internal partner appointments, the firm has announced four lateral hires, all acknowledged leaders and experts in their fields with Gerald Bland, Anne Waltham and Adrian Bland into the Real Estate Group and Rafi Azim-Khan brought in to head up a new team dedicated to e-business and marketing in London. In October the firm took on an additional 10,000 square feet in its London office while 1 December marked the beginning of a formal association with leading German independent Graf von Westphalen Bappert & Modest to make the most of opportunities in Europe. At the beginning of this year, two top private equity partners Maurice Dwyer and Andy Stylianou moved into London office to take on the City’s venture capitalist market. And, on 1 May, Wragge & Co became one of the UK’s first law firms to incorporate as an LLP.

The firm’s Human Resources Group, now led by former senior partner John Crabtree, has had the most successful year with its nationally recognised employment and pensions operation reporting a 10 per cent turnover increase to nearly £9 million. The newly formed Real Estate Group – representing the combined former Property Development and Retail and Property Services groups – recorded an 8 per cent increase to £22 million – a figure which is just beginning to reflect the new work and clients won since the national launch. Intellectual Property, one of the firm’s ‘top five’ and most high profile niche practices, enjoyed an increase of 6 per cent reflecting a successful year including an appointment to the Microsoft panel for channel piracy work, anti-counterfeiting work for Hasbro, patent litigation work for Iridian Technologies Inc on iris recognition and patent litigation for BT.

New clients for the firm this year include easyGroup for franchising and property, RAC for full service and OGC (central government panels) for a range of services including human resources, construction and general commercial. Significant new work from existing clients include IT and telecoms for Lloyds TSB, a move to full service for English Heritage and non-contentious construction for Cadbury Schweppes. New real estate clients include Sackville Properties, Pearson, Helios Properties, Frontier Estates and Carisbrooke.

Quentin Poole said: "Many of our clients are finding it challenging out there, and many of our competitors are also finding it tough, so 2 per cent is a satisfying result overall. In the last five years we’ve increased turnover by 131 per cent and that’s still an outstanding figure. But this year we are particularly pleased with the significant and healthy turnaround in profitability, something we’ve achieved through greater efficiencies, while still investing in the future. For example, we took on all of our 17 newly qualifieds and recruited a further 10 from other firms."

Wragge & Co’s new management team is currently consulting with the firm’s practice area heads to set a turnover target for next year. However, it has already set its sights on winning more work from its existing FTSE 100 client base – currently standing at 31 and including BP, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Marks & Spencer and HBOS – while winning new major corporate clients and their equivalent in real estate. Wragge & Co already acts for H. J. Heinz, RMC Group (on panel), and 3i plc (on panel), British Airways, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Enterprise Inns, BUPA, William Hill, Castlemore Securities and ProLogis Developments.

Quentin Poole said: "We’re predicting that next year will still be tough but we’re in a strong competitive position. With a lower cost base than almost any other corporate firm with equivalent strength and depth or resource, we offer City quality work at regional rates. We’ve set out our stall as a full service firm and have invested in, not divested of, essential legal services like IP and real estate while recruiting some of the UK’s leaders in their field in Gerald, Anne, Adrian and Rafi. That’s all key to our strategy and it’s an attractive offer to businesses."

In accordance with Limited Liability Partnership regulations, Wragge & Co’s accounts will be filed with the Registrar of Companies and available for inspection from February 2004.

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