Herbert Smith Freehills accounts reveal £33m tech investment as Ashurst management pay dips

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) spent £21m on new integrated finance and practice management systems last year, the firm’s accounts reveal.

The firm’s global limited liability partnership (LLP) accounts, published on Companies House, reveal the firm spent £33m on computer software in 2016-17, compared to £12m the previous year.

The figure includes £21m of “assets under development”, which relates to investment in systems from Aderant and Intapp.

The firm said in a statement: “The investment in finance and practice management systems is part of investment in new technologies to achieve the best results for our clients: we are moving to a single global, integrated finance and practice management system.”

The accounts also show that operating profit nudged up marginally from £245.7m to £247.9m, with staff costs jumping up 15% to £462.1m, along side an increase in total staff numbers from 4,073 to 4,248. The highest paid partner took home £1.6m – the same amount as the previous year, with the firm’s key management committee sharing £8.5m, a slight dip from £8.7m the previous year.

Separately, fellow Anglo-Australian firm Ashurst’s LLP accounts reveal combined pay for the firm’s key management was 17% lower this year than last, standing at £8m compared with £9.4m in 2015-16.

Operating profit climbed from £152m to £155m, with staff costs growing from £216m to £237m during the year, despite a drop in average staff headcount from 2,722 to 2,609. The biggest reduction in headcount was in support staff numbers, with non fee earner numbers falling from 1,354 to 1,275.

Pay for the top earning partner stayed flat at roughly £1m.

Ashurst announced a 7% revenue increase from £505m to £541m fpr 2016-17 last summer, along with an 11.5% profit per equity partner (PEP) hike to £672,000 .

The figures marked a rebound for the firm after a difficult 2015-16 when PEP plummeted by almost 20% and revenue fell 10%.