Global turnover at the insurance and shipping specialist for the year to 30 April 2019 grew 11% to £218m, as fee-earner headcount grew 7% to exceed 2,000 for the first time. The firm made a number of lateral hires last year, most recently a 10-lawyer team – including two partners – from Norton Rose Fulbright.
The firm does not publish profit for a few months while it takes a view on the recoverability of debtors and work in progress, but Thomas told Legal Business he expected the firm’s profit margin and profit per equity partner (PEP) to both improve. Last year, the firm’s profit margin was 17% and PEP £401,000.
Thomas said the increase in revenue followed the coming together of various investments it had made in the last few years. The firm merged with US insurance firm Carroll McNulty & Kull in 2017, for instance, with revenue in the region up 16% to £35.9m this year.
‘It’s been a year of a bit of consolidation,’ Thomas told Legal Business. ‘What we were looking for was for all of the people we’ve brought in over the last year or two to have a solid year at the coalface, getting the clients on-boarded and generating the fees, and that’s what they’ve done. It’s lovely when the plan comes together.’
The Asia-Pacific region similarly saw revenue increase by over a quarter to £35.7m, while Latin America more than doubled to £6.2m, with the firm establishing three new associations in each of the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Panama in March.
Kennedys’ UK revenue was up 8% to £126m. Thomas commented: ‘It’s very easy to suffer from what I call “Buzz Lightyear complex” and only be excited about the new shiny toys. The UK could be called Woody, we’re very pleased it’s still growing and still bringing new clients in.’
Thomas said the firm still needed to fill obvious gaps on the West Coast of the US and in other parts of Europe and would look for opportunities in those areas as they arose.
‘We’ve got the support of the partnership to go out there and do that,’ he commented. ‘All of the investments that we’ve done over the last few years are still bedding in to some extent and growing, so I would be very disappointed if we’re not double-digit growth again this year.’