As we move towards the heart of 2016, the Dewey & LeBoeuf saga has faded quietly into the annals of BigLaw history (having failed to garner convictions but succeeded in propelling the youngest of its defendants to a first-year associate position at Williams & Connelly), and the few early financial reports that have become public paint a rosy picture.
Among the leading thoroughbreds is Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which continued its twenty year streak of increasing revenue and profits. exceeding $1.1 billion in revenue last year representing a 7.1 percent increase from 2014 and over $4 million in profits per partner for the first time in its history (see http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202748743109/The-Am-Law-100-the-Early-Numbers-Paul-Weiss-Partner-Profits-Top-4-Million#ixzz41VnKioek). Revenue and profits per partner also rose at Willkie (gross revenue reportedly increasing to $658 million representing a 2.8 percent increase over 2014 with profits per partner rising 1.8 percent to $2,605,000 (see http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202751808613/The-Am-Law-100-Willkie-Grows-Revenue-Profits#ixzz44o4KpQbs), Fried Frank (revenue reportedly up almost 10 percent to $504.5 million and profits per equity partner up 21.5 percent to $2.2 million – s firm record (see http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202751870681/The-Am-Law-100-A-Big-Year-for-Fried-Frank-as-New-Strategy-Pays-Off#ixzz44o3NcSyJ), Milbank (reporting $771 million in gross revenue representing an increase of 1.3 percent with profits per partner up 0.7 percent to $2.765 million (see http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202751817832/The-Am-Law-100-Milbank-Posts-Modest-Financial-Gains#ixzz44o5EV2jZ), Gibson Dunn (posting a 4.7% increase in revenue to $1.54 billion, profits per partner rising 4.6% to $3.19 million (see http://www.legalweek.com/legal-week/news/2449451/am-law-100-gibson-dunn-reports-20th-straight-year-of-revenue-growth), Mayer Brown (gross revenue increasing 2.8 percent to $1.257 billion and profits per equity partner up 7.6 percent, to $1.56 million (see http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202751330446/The-Am-Law-100-Revenues-Edge-Up-at-Mayer-Brown#ixzz44o7FK71z), Winston & Strawn (revenue per lawyer at the Chicago-based firm topping $1 million for the first time in 2015 with profits per partner up 7.1 percent over 2014 (see http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202752698340/The-Am-Law-100-Winston–Strawn-Grows-Profits-Revenue#ixzz44nvrCJ9W), Seyfarth Shaw (gross revenue rising 6.3 percent to $590 million and profits per equity partner reaching $1.02 million representing an increase of 8.5 percent, with average partner compensation reportedly up 4.8 percent to $660,000 (see http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202751889794?rss=rss_tal_amlawdaily). and Schulte, Roth & Zabel (revenue rising to $405.5 million representing an increase of 1.2 percent with profits per partner up less than 1 percent to $2.33 million on net income of $198 million (see http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202752080965/The-Am-Law-100-Schulte-Roth-Holds-Steady-in-Revenue-Profits#ixzz44nxwMwdO).
One firm reporting negative revenue and profits was Cahill, but no partners there are heading to poorhouse anytime soon either (gross revenue reportedly down 4.1 percent to $364.5 million, profits per partner down 7.1 percent to $3.36 million (see http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202751922568/The-Am-Law-100-Revenue-Partner-Profits-Dip-at-Cahill-Gordon#ixzz44o2lSOm4),
To be clear, however, not all firms are thriving. Dickstein & Shapiro is the latest of our major players to see its demise, joining in first quarter 2016 the steady march to the graveyard at the rate of approximately one every one-and-a-half years since 1999 other once-BigLaw players including Brobeck, Heller Ehrman, Howrey, Thelen, Dreier, Thacher Profitt, McKee Nelson, Wolf Block, Dewey & LeBoeuf and Bingham McCutcheon. Of the 175 or so AmLaw 200 firms that have not yet reported their financials, no doubt most are doing their best just to maintain their respective positions in the BigLaw revenue and profitability race, while some are teeter-tottering as they make every effort to hide their struggles so as to avoid crises of confidence and the inevitable partner and client exoduses that follow.
To those contemplating a lateral move, we as always urge a thorough due diligence of viable market possibilities and firm finances when relevant, and are eager to assist in performing that diligence so as to minimize the risk of jumping onto the next sinking ship.