News In Focus
Revenue up but profits down at Burness Paull
Modest revenue growth but a dip in profits have been reported by commercial law firm Burness Paull LLP in its results for 2018-19.
Turnover for the 12 months to 31 July 2019 grew for the 10th successive year, by 2% from £57.6m to £58.5m, after a 7% rise the previous year, but profit was down 8% from £23.8m to £22m, reversing an 8% rise in 2017-18.
Chair Peter Lawson pointed to economic and political uncertainty as having had a "tangible impact" on two of the firm's biggest markets, oil and gas and commercial property.
"As a result the first six months of our financial year were relatively flat, with Brexit and oil price recovery delaying some investment decisions and taking a while to convert into activity", he commented. "However, the second six month period was materially better as clients adjusted to uncertainty being the new norm and the gradual uptick in activity in the North Sea flowed into investment and transactional work.
"The fact that our corporate team had a record year, particularly in tech and international markets, and topped the Scottish legal deals table for the fourth consecutive year, is evidence that clients were bullishly responding to changes in their markets by investing.
"Current activity levels are encouraging, and with our strategic investments in people and tech over the past 12 months we are confident about stronger growth in the year ahead."
The firm said it had made "significant client-focused investments in new technology", including the adoption of a full cloud computing strategy to increase its data security and provide a digital infrastructure capable of being rapidly expanded to meet client needs, state-of-the-art document automation driven by artificial intelligence, and a new practice management system.
Mr Lawson added: "To achieve consistent growth over the past 10 years is a real achievement for the firm, given the wideranging changes in the legal sector and the economic and political uncertainty during that time. Being involved in advising major corporates over the past 20 years has taught me that long term sustainability is the key driver for a successful business. Long term investment is vital too, especially so for us given the pace of change within the legal sector.
"That’s why we have carried out a painstaking review process in partnership with clients to find out what support they are going to need from our firm over the next few years. We know many of them are weathering challenges in their businesses and have a big drive to reduce operational costs.
"Based on their feedback we have brought forward some major investment decisions relating to talent and technology in order to shape our service in response. We are now gradually re-engineering the firm for better long-term performance, starting with client-driven services."
Over the past 12 months Burness Paull has won awards for its corporate finance and IP practices, plus a Proud Scotland award for its diversity initiatives.