Willkie Farr hikes London revenues by almost 50%

Willkie Farr & Gallagher boosted London revenues by almost 50% during 2017, a year in which the US firm posted record results across all key financial metrics.

The City office generated $53m (£38m) in revenue over the calendar year, up 47% from $36m (£26m) in 2016, the firm said. The London base has more than 50 lawyers focused on compliance and enforcement, insurance, asset management, restructuring, private equity and competition.

Recent high-profile mandates have included advising Barclays on fraud charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office relating to the bank’s capital raising arrangements with Qatari investors during the 2008 financial crisis.

The firm also recently bolstered its London partnership ranks with the hire of Slaughter and May associate Simon Osborn-King, who is joining as a partner after more than 10 years at the magic circle firm.

Firmwide revenues rose nearly 12% to $772m (£548m) during 2017, while profit per equity partner rose 13% to $2.97m (£2.1m) and revenue per lawyer (RPL) rose 5% to $1.2m (£852,000), according to preliminary ALM reporting.

The firm increased its profitability even as it boosted its size, with total lawyer headcount rising 6% to 644 lawyers. The firm’s equity partnership ranks increased by three to 145.

Gartner said private equity and M&A work were key drivers of the growth, but litigation, restructuring and asset management were also “big contributors.” As well as London, he said there was substantial contributions from the firm’s Frankfurt and Paris offices.

Fresh off the record results, Willkie Farr has added a string of partners in the first quarter of 2017.

Bryan Cave posts falling revenue and partner profits before BLP merger

Bryan Cave saw both revenue and profit per equity partner (PEP) dip in its last full financial year before its merger with Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), a deal the US firm is expecting to turn its financial performance around.

The St Louis-based firm firm saw gross revenue dip 2.5% to $592.6m in 2017 as PEP fell nearly 7% to $804,000. Revenue per lawyer remained flat at $700,000.

Bryan Cave’s top-line figure has now fallen four straight years by a total of 7.8% since it topped out at $643m in 2013.

A firm spokeswoman issued a brief statement noting that Bryan Cave is “very pleased” with the “extremely strong” financials.

A decrease in mortgage litigation work and slightly shrinking headcount (down 2.6% to 847 lawyers) partly accounted for the gross revenue dip, the statement said.

“We expect the pending combination with BLP to grow revenues and boost profitability as a direct result of our improved ability to provide our clients with broader and deeper legal services,” said Bryan Cave in its statement.

This year will be the last set of financial figures reported by Bryan Cave before it becomes Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP). That merger is expected to create a combined firm of some 1,600 lawyers with more than $900m in gross revenue.

A firm with $900m in gross revenue last year would have ranked 37th in the most recent Am Law 100 list and 44th in the Global 100 rankings, directly between McDermott Will & Emery and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in both tables.

For its part, BLP saw revenue rise 7% to £272m (roughly $376m at current exchange rates) during 2016-17, its last full financial year, as PEP fell nearly 8% to £630,000 ($871.000).

Bryan Cave last year trimmed its non-equity partner ranks by 6.2% down to 166. The firm’s equity partner ranks grew by 2.5% to 204, up from 199 the year before, helping to explain some of the PEP decrease.

BLP’s partners will be interested in that figure, as the combination they are entering into is one of the few fully financially integrated transatlantic law firm mergers. In an earlier interview, Bryan Cave chair Therese Pritchard said the single-profit pool structure made it easier to reward partners for working together across geographies than a Swiss verein construction.

“In our mind it provides the incentives to find the best people in the firm to service the clients’ needs,” Pritchard said. “And we think at the end of the day that is a better way to operate. We are all in it together.”

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Travers Smith PEP hits £1m

Travers Smith’s average profit per equity partner has reached £1m for the first time, while revenue has jumped 13 per cent.

The 2015/16 financial year marks the seventh consecutive year of growth for the firm, with PEP increasing 8 per cent from £935,000 to £1.015m and revenue rising from £106m to £120m.

Revenue and PEP jump

Since 2009/10, Travers Smith has seen revenue increase by nearly 40 per cent from £72m, while PEP has jumped by the same percentage from £705,000.

Promotions and pay

Travers Smith made up six lawyers to its partnership this year in a larger than usual round. The firm also recently upped its associate pay, with newly-qualified lawyers now earning £71,500.

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Turnover up at Watson Farley & Williams, Sacker & Partners

Both firms have posted modest growth in their revenues for the 2016 financial year.

Watson, Farley & Williams announced that revenue has grown 5 per cent at the firm over the last 12 months to £131.2m. The growth result is a notch below the 7 per cent increase to £125m recorded at the firm for the 2014/2015 financial year, which was itself a considerable step down from the 14.6 per cent increase achieved the year before.

Over the last year, WFW has broken ground in Vietnam through a flagship alliance with local firm LVN Associates and has bulked up its headcount in New York with two real estate hires and a new dispute resolution team.

Sacker hits double digits

Meanwhile, boutique firm Sacker & Partners has posted a 13 per cent lift in revenue to £26.8m for the last financial year, while profit was up 15 per cent from £13.6m to £15.3m in the 12 months to 31 December. With a client list that includes Lloyds Bank, HSBC, John Lewis and ITV, the strong result at Sackers is reflective of the growing number of large corporates looking to restructure their pension schemes: ‘It was a very good year. The general routine work was of a higher level and there were a few mega projects too. Generally, the pensions world is very busy,’ commented Sackers senior partner Ian Pittaway to Legal Business. Partner and staff headcounts were both flat at the firm year-on-year, at 26 and 76 respectively. Remuneration for firm’s highest-paid partner rose £300,000 last year to £1.45m.

Sources: Legal Business; The Lawyer