Specialising in the sectors it is strongest in and a continued drive for efficiency has been hailed as a recipe for success by law firm SGH Martineau, as the firm posted increased profits despite a fall in revenues.
The Birmingham-based firm, which also has an office in London, posted full-year revenues of £27.5 million and profit of £6.8 million, which it said "exceeded expectations".
The previous year saw revenues of £28 million and £6.7 million profit.
Managing partner Emma Shipp told the Post the only real growth for larger law firms was through mergers but that SGH Martineau was concentrating its efforts in a different direction in a bid to be more profitable.
"There isn't organic growth for law firms," she said.
"We keep our ear to the ground and know fairly well there isn't much organic growth. But in our sectors we are seeing growth and that is where we are getting growth from.
"Although our turnover has declined, our profit is going up, that is where we are getting things right."
The latest results from the firm, which came into being in 2011 when Birmingham firm Martineau merged with Sprecher Grier Halberstam in London, follow a strategic review of the business which resulted in a focus on chosen clients and industry sectors.
Ms Shipp said it had involved some reorganisation and a number of lateral and internal partner appointments.
She added: "It's about delivering quality legal services, value for money rather than competing solely on price, and a firm with a true sector focus embedded throughout its legal support groups can do that."
The stand-out sectors for SGH Martineau were energy, which was up by 39 per cent and education - up by 13 per cent.
Energy and education are two of six sectors the firm said it is intent on focusing on going forward.
Other sectors where it plans to channel its efforts include banking and financial services, investment funds, retail and leisure and industry and manufacturing.
The firm said it had retained its place on many bank panels and was playing an increasing role in the growing area of Islamic finance.
Another highlight was the performance of its real estate group, which has benefitted from the firm's sector focus and saw growth of nine per cent. During a busy year, it was involved in the Paradise Circus redevelopment in Birmingham for Millennium & Copthorne.
Explaining the philosophy behind its sector specialism, senior partner Andrew Whitehead said: "When we have six specialisms it means we are embedding our client awareness and client need across the whole firm.
"For example, if someone said can you do work for an NHS trust we would say no and find them someone else. If they said can you work for a hotel chain we would say yes.
"We think we have got to do it even more, so that only 20 per cent of our revenue won't fit into these sectors."
Accepting that the effects of the downturn were still being felt, Ms Shipp and Mr Whitehead warned that any expectation of a "return to the good old days" was unrealistic.
Ms Shipp said: "It never will be, that is not going to happen. It is going to improve but clients are becoming a lot more sophisticated in the way they buy legal services."
Mr Whitehead added: "It is picking up and there doesn’t seem to be the carnage of the past few years when it wasn't easy.
"The only way to increase revenue is to have a more competitive offering and better understand the clients, what they face and what they are up to. You can’t just put your prices up."
The firm also highlighted its a continuing drive to deliver efficiencies. Over the past year it has seen a reduction in the number of partners it has and plans are in the pipeline for significant investment in new IT systems.
It also hopes to see continued growth in its international business, which increased by 56 per cent last year.
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