London legal aid firm Duncan Lewis aims to consolidate its position over the coming year after bringing in more than 100 new staff and upping its turnover by 56%, according to the firm’s recently published accounts.
The firm, the largest civil legal aid practice in the country, boosted its turnover to £16.02m in the year ended 31 March 2009, compared with £10.22m over the same period in 2007/08. Profits after tax rose 48%, from £668,000 to £986,000.
Staff numbers at the firm rose 43%, from 237 to 339, which was reflected in a 54% increase in salary costs, from £5.89m to £9.08m.
The director’s report said that ‘the company’s growth needs to be understood in the context of a commitment to the provision of social welfare legal aid services, which is increasingly rare elsewhere in the legal profession’.
The report said ‘billing limitations’ imposed by the Legal Services Commission created £13.99m worth of unbilled work, equivalent to £47,000 per fee-earner.
Practice manager Adam Makepeace said that the figure is an ‘inevitable consequence’ of doing legal aid work and is partly due to the firm’s rapid expansion. He said the firm is looking to reduce this figure as it consolidates over the coming year.
Over the accounting period, Duncan Lewis acquired London firm White Ryland and subsumed its LSC contract.
Duncan Lewis significantly increased its bank loans and overdrafts with NatWest during the period, from £4.36m to £7.96m.
According to the accounts, the number of Duncan Lewis directors had fallen from 39 to 5 by 25 January 2010. Makepeace said that the firm has rejigged its board to separate its legal and business function. The highest paid director at the firm received £95,224 in 2008/09, up from £90,654 in 2007/08.