Upbeat Clarke Willmott signals minimal impact on this year’s profits from Covid-19

July 24, 2020

National law firm Clarke Willmott is forecasting almost no impact from the coronavirus pandemic on its profits in its current financial year with some parts of the business already recovering strongly.

The firm, which has its largest office in Bristol, is the first of the city’s major law firms to report financial results for the 2019/20 financial year – a period that includes the early part of the lockdown when the legal sector was hit by huge uncertainty. 

While turnover for the 2019/20 year rose by £2.3m to £51.7m on the previous year, Clarke Willmott’s profits of £11m were down from £11.4m previously – a fall the firm said was in line with its expectations,

As a result, equity PEP was £201,000 – slightly reduced from the previous year’s £234, 000.

However, in an upbeat statement accompanying the results, the firm – which employs more than 600 lawyers and support staff, including 100-plus partners, across its seven offices – forecasts profitability for 2020/21 as matching that of the year just ended.

This was due, it said, to action taken ahead of lockdown and a rapid bounce back by some areas of the business.

CEO Stephen Rosser, pictured, said: “I am pleased with our results for the financial year, but I am even more pleased with our response to the pandemic.

“Following a programme of strategic IT investment over a number of years, we achieved more than 90% remote working in less than a fortnight. 

“At that stage, our activity was the highest it had ever been, but clearly there has been an impact since and that was felt in the latter months of the financial year.”

He said that as the economy began to emerge from lockdown, many parts of the business continued to perform at record levels – although others had had reduced demand.

“It is the diversity of the business and our geographic spread that makes us strong,” he said.

“Performance in the first two months this year is outstripping the budget and keeping track with last year’s performance. As a result, despite the challenges, our forecast is to match last year’s profitability in 2020/21.”

The firm’s financial position and liquidity were strong and had continued to improve year on year,” he said.

“In light of the coronavirus pandemic, we have taken additional proactive steps to further improve the financial resilience of the business in the future. The effect has been to reduce profitability in 2019/20 by £1m as a result of increasing our reserves for both bad debt and dilapidations.

“Our underlying financial performance prior to these adjustments was an improvement over the prior year.

“As we look to 2020/21, performance is strong and will deliver a profit in line with expectations. Our cash position enables a level of confidence in our ability to continue to invest in the growth of our business.”

Clarke Willmott also has offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton as well as Bristol.

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