Top 20 UK firms reduce equity partnerships

September 11, 2013 The UK's 20 largest law firms by revenue have seen the overall proportion of equity partners fall by 12% over the last seven years, with equity partners accounting for 59% of the total partner count in 2012-13, according to research conducted by Legal Week.

While the total number of partners at top 20 firms has grown by 31% since 2005-06, the number of equity partners has grown by just 15% in the same period.

It seems that the magic circle firms have bucked the overall trend, increasing equity partner proportions from 81% in 2005-06 to 85% in 2012-13. Linklaters is moving toward an all-equity model of partnership, increasing its percentage of equity partners from 77% to 94% in the seven-year period. Clifford Chance, Slaughter and May and Allen & Overy have also seen their proportion of equity partners increase. Outside the magic circle, the proportion of equity partners across the top 20 fell from 56% to 47% over the seven-year period.

Clifford Chance senior partner Malcolm Sweeting said that top-performing firms may be more confident about investing in their partnerships. "While there hasn't necessarily been a conscious trend toward expansion, the firms at the top end of the scale will have the business plan and confidence to invest for the future."

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