NEWCASTLE commercial law firm Muckle has turned the corner, with profits coming back strongly after a difficult recession which hit revenues and the bottom line.
Recently-released results for the practice show revenues until March last year came in at £8.4m, marginally down on the previous year’s £8.7m.
But earnings came back strongly, with pre-tax profits up 50%, from £1.6m to £2.5m.
The firm, based in the Time Central building at Gallowgate, is also recruiting again, after letting 16 people go in 2009 – one of several large North East law firms which looked to streamline operations in the economic slump.
Muckle has recruited an additional 12 staff, including nine fee earners, in the last year, taking staff to 131.
And 2010 has been a good year for the firm, with managing partner Stephen McNicol saying revenues are up 10% on the previous financial year.
Corporate finance has come back strongly, with Muckle being involved in 111 deals in the first three quarters of the 20101/2011 financial year. This included one of the region’s largest – the purchase of the South Shields-based Visage clothing company by Hong Kong-based Li & Fung for £173m.
The total of all of these transactions stands at almost £700m – a significant increase on the total for the previous year of 89 deals worth an aggregate value of £360m.
Mr McNicol said: “We are seeing growth of about 10% in the current financial year, which is down to a combination of having good quality people and being in the right place at the right time.
“We have been involved in some very substantial corporate transactions. There is still a dearth of debt finance but we are lucky to have some acquisitive clients with the funds to support their own transactions.”
The last year has seen strong growth in the practice’s commercial property department after it secured the services of Rob Langley, the former senior partner of city rival Watson Burton.
As well as corporate finance and property, Muckle specialises in construction and engineering, employment, dispute resolution, debt recovery, public sector and private client work.
It boosted its private client side with the arrival of Keith Hately and has increased partner numbers from 20 to 26 in the last year.
Mr McNicol said it has limited exposure to the public sector, although it is keeping a watching brief on how the cuts will affect its “clients and its clients’ clients”.
“We are pretty pleased with our overall performance in the last financial year,” added Mr McNicol. “The last few years have seen tough trading conditions for all businesses and providers of legal services are no different.
“It seems likely the business environment will remain challenging for some time. However, we are a people business and we have confidence that we have the right people and the right strategy that will enable us to continue to be successful.”