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Ward Hadaway improves profitability in annual results

LAW firm Ward Hadaway has seen its profitability improve as its annual turnover has stabilised.

The UK Top 100 law firm, which has offices in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester and which employs more than 450 people across the North, stabilised its annual income at £33.5m against a backdrop of intense competition in the legal sector and after five consecutive years of revenue growth.

In the North East, the firm saw marked growth in its Litigation, Private Client and Property departments and across the firm’s three offices, 9 out of 13 departments showed growth in the year to the end of April 2015.

A tight rein on costs helped to ensure that overall profits rose with the like-for-like profit margin rising to 30.1% and net debt falling by 7.1%.

Overall, the firm has seen its turnover grow by 20% over the last five years as it has extended its reach across the North of England.

Jamie Martin

Jamie Martin, managing partner at Ward Hadaway.

Ward Hadaway Managing Partner, Jamie Martin, said: “Competition in the legal marketplace has continued to intensify and the sector has seen significant consolidation with a series of mergers and takeovers.

“We are pleased that in such a climate, we have remained stable and increased our profit margin by reducing our costs and keeping overheads under control, whilst at the same time maintaining our investment programme.

“We are very pleased with the performance across all three offices, with a number of practice areas seeing significant growth – once again the firm’s strength as a leading law firm for contentious business in the North has been maintained with income from our Litigation department representing just short of 50% of the firm’s turnover.

“We have also continued with our policy of investing in talented, nationally recognised lawyers as we continue to look to provide our clients with the very best in expertise and experience.”

During the course of the year to the end of April 2015, Ward Hadaway recruited seven Partners across the firm, including a raft of leading experts in their areas.

Tim Care, a leading national authority on public sector issues, joined the firm in October 2014. Tim has already advised on more than £1bn worth of projects in the public sector and is helping Ward Hadaway’s wide range of clients to deal with the rapid pace of change in healthcare, local government and public procurement matters.

Experienced Construction lawyer Tim Craig joined Ward Hadaway as a Partner in September 2014, bringing with him over 20 years’ specialist expertise advising on major projects in the UK and overseas.

The Construction team was further bolstered in November 2014 with the recruitment of Associate Alan Ross, who has advised on developments in the energy, hospitality, public sector and leisure sectors.

Experienced Pensions specialist Ian O’Toole joined Ward Hadaway as a Partner in March 2015, bringing with him over 15 years’ specialist expertise advising on all aspects of pensions matters.

Ian, who is based in the Leeds office, now heads up the Pensions team at Ward Hadaway as it looks to assist employers in the private and public sectors to deal with issues such as auto-enrolment and new pensions freedoms.

The firm’s Manchester office saw a 28.5% jump in fee income, with all of Ward Hadaway Manchester’s main practice areas recording significant growth.

Across the firm, Ward Hadaway’s extensive Property team – one of the largest of its kind in the region with more than 70 lawyers across the North – also saw further expansion on the back of a raft of increased instructions from clients, particularly in the very active housebuilding sector.

The Property team was also named Property Team of the Year at the recent Northern Law Awards, which also saw Ward Hadaway win awards for Trainee of the Year (James Fairman) and the Outstanding Achievement Award, which was given to the firm’s Managing Partner, Jamie Martin.

Jamie said such expansion and recent success boded well for the future of the firm, adding that its status as a Northern law firm for national business chimed in with the prevailing political landscape.

Jamie said: “We are confident that the firm has the correct shape to it and we will continue our investment across all three offices – Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester, with the latter office having seen income growth of 28.5% over the past year.

“Our strategy of building three offices across the North in major commercial centres has achieved political resonance over the course of the year with the development of the Northern Powerhouse concept and we see ourselves as being ideally placed to benefit from that political initiative.

“We will continue to keep a close eye on the marketplace and our position as an independent firm allows us to respond quickly to trends and new developments. For example, during the year we have ramped up resources available in our housebuilding practice to meet the requirements of our housebuilder clients across the North and we have been able to do the same in Property for our retail clients.

“I am also particularly pleased that, as a result of the strength of our business, we have been able to keep on all 12 of our trainee solicitors who are due to qualify in September 2015.

“The firm also remains a major supplier of legal services to the NHS across the North and we intend to grow our presence in that market in both contentious and non-contentious work.”