Profits rise for large Scottish law firms

Profits rose at some of Scotland's large law firms last year despite an average 11% drop across the Scottish legal sector, a report has suggested.

The Law Society of Scotland's annual "Cost of Time" survey found average profits per equity partner fell from £72,000 in 2009 to £64,000 last year.

However, some large firms saw a significant bounce back from a 40% drop experienced the previous year.

Profits averaged at £178,000 per equity partner, compared to £136,000 in 2009.

That figure, while high compared to the rest of the profession in Scotland, was lower than large commercial firms south of the border.

The survey, which was based on results from 220 law firms of various sizes across Scotland, suggested sole practitioners and firms with between five and nine partners were worst affected.

The average drop for sole practitioners was from £55,000 to £49,000. Those in Glasgow and Edinburgh were worst hit, with 24% and 12% falls respectively.

Continuing difficulties

Scottish firms with between five and nine equity partners saw their profits per partner fall from £84,000 to £66,000.

Smaller firms of two, three or four partners in rural areas and firms in Aberdeen, Perth and Dundee fared better than their counterparts in the two largest cities, and largely maintained profits at 2009 levels.

Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society, said the report predicted continuing difficulties for the legal sector this year as public sector cuts make an impact.

"I don't expect to see a flood of new business entrants, but solicitors do need to be thinking very seriously about how they shape their business as we move into 2011," she said.

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