27 July 2020

HFW posts strong financial results as international expansion continues

HFW's Piraeus office posted 15% revenue gains this year

Firm sees healthy rise in profits and double-digit PEP gains as sector-focus pays off

HFW posted an 11% jump in profit per equity partner (PEP) at the end of the 2020 financial year, as it reported strong growth amid its ongoing international expansion.

PEP rose to £526,000, with revenues up 9% to £195m and net profit coming in at £47m. The firm also recorded rises in both revenue per lawyer and profit per lawyer to £389,000 and £94,000 respectively, citing results seen by some as a broader and fairer measure of a firm’s overall financial metrics.

Richard Crump, the firm’s global senior partner, said: “We are very pleased to see our sector-focused strategy and sustained international expansion continue to drive growth across the business.” 

Crump was re-elected to a fifth five-year term last year.

The firm’s revenue growth follows an extended period of international expansion, in which revenues have increased by 40% in the last five years, with more than 60% of the firm’s revenue generated outside the UK, compared to 35% 10 years ago. 

The firm has also broadened its transactional offerings, adding 20 partners in two years. These included a rare team move in corporate finance in Hong Kong, while it strengthened its disputes practice, most recently with a civil fraud and insolvency partner hire from Norton Rose Fulbright in London back in May.

The firm had previously announced a six-partner promotions round in April, down from nine the previous year, with two promotions in aviation in Paris and London, and one each in insurance, commodities, energy and shipping. Three legal directors were also promoted, all in London. 

It has also made significant sector-specific lateral hires, such as in Monaco, a fixed location for the shipping industry and for the superyacht segment in particular. The firm diversified its maritime practice with the arrival of a three-partner, seven-lawyer team from Ince in 2019, which Crump called “a fantastic addition to the firm”. 

Its established shipping hubs in Singapore and Piraeus posted 15% jumps in revenue this year, underlying the firm’s strength in those jurisdictions. Crump himself is based in Asia, leading a twenty-partner team.  

HFW’s steady growth in the Middle East has also paid dividends, with HFW reporting a 15% increase in revenue from the Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Riyadh offices, in particular.

That has attracted rivals, with Beau McLaren leaving to join Clyde & Co this month, illustrating that HFW’s virtues—its people—are coveted elsewhere; it also lost a six-lawyer shipping team to Squire Patton Boggs in June. 

With interest in the Americas from rival firms, Crump was at pains to note his firm’s efforts, saying: “Our cooperation agreement with CAL in Brazil, which we entered into in 2018, has also continued to work well.” 

Crump flagged double-digit growth in the firm’s Houston office, which also saw an energy sector promotion for Sheshe Evans.  

Both Clyde & Co and Kennedys have expanded strongly in Latin America and the US in recent months; the latter firm also announced a Canadian alliance recently.

Crump likewise refused to rule out further expansion, saying: “We have ambitious plans to continue our growth and are actively targeting opportunities across our industry groups, legal services and international network.”

Jeremy Shebson, Crump’s colleague as managing partner, added that the results reflected “a significant strengthening and broadening of our business,” adding the board was keen to ensure that growth was prudent and sustainable.

Shebson also signalled a cautious approach going forward, noting: “Things have changed significantly over the past six months. We are anticipating a more challenging period due to the impact of the outbreak on global economies and our clients.”

To meet such client challenges, HFW has worked closely with market partners, tracking potential increases in any disputes related to the pandemic, while also seeking to work more holistically with clients in funding disputes, with a non-exclusive association with Augusta and EY.

Initiatives like that support Shebson’s closing statement, saying the firm would “continue to work tirelessly to help our clients minimise the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses—and to prepare for what’s next.”

Email your news and story ideas to: news@globallegalpost.com