The firm plans to emphasize U.S. growth in coming years, especially in California and New York.
Rising client demand helped drive Mayer Brown to new financial heights last year, pushing revenue at the Chicago-based global firm up 6.8% to just over $1.48 billion. Profits per equity partner grew 6.5% to over $1.8 million.
The firm’s 1,632 lawyers logged 5.1% more client-chargeable hours in 2019 compared to 2018. That’s a far greater uptick than Citi Private Bank and Wells Fargo Private Bank Legal Specialty Group reported in industrywide survey results for the year, finding demand increases of 1.1% and 1.4%, respectively.
Mayer Brown chairman Paul Theiss sees the results as proof the firm is on the right track: “We’re excited that 2019 represented a year of more considerable progress for the law firm.”
Over the next couple of years, the firm—whose revenues have never been higher, but whose head count never fully rebounded after the financial crisis—plans to add more lawyers to its offices in New York and California. Fifty-six percent of Mayer Brown’s lawyers are located in the U.S., and firm wants to get that number up to at least 60%, Theiss said.
“We are very happy with and have recently reaffirmed our current footprint as a firm. We do plan more aggressive growth in the U.S., and in particular New York and California, relative to growth in the rest of the world, in the next few years,” Theiss said.
He held open the possibility that Mayer Brown could open a new U.S. office, although he added the firm isn’t currently looking to expand into a new market—it now has 27 offices across 14 countries—nor is it involved in any merger discussions. Despite its emphasis on U.S. expansion, he added that the firm still expects to grow in Europe and Asia.
Similar to the firm as a whole, Mayer Brown’s European offices in London, Paris, Berlin, Dusseldorf and Brussels saw a collective 5.3% increase in revenue, 5.8% increase in head count and 6.7% increase in demand. Of the five offices, London is Mayer Brown’s largest, with 212 lawyers at the end of 2019, according to the firm.
“It’s the same story as the rest of the firm: We see very strong performances from all of our European practices,” Theiss said. “We’re looking to continue to expand in Europe and in the U.S. at a faster pace.”
Theiss also touted the firm’s presence in Asia, calling it a “signature strength” that will grow. He said Mayer Brown is the only global law firm that has 200 or more lawyers each in Hong Kong, London and New York.
Practice highlights in 2019 included the firm’s representation of U.S. insurer Hartford Financial Services Group in its $2.1 billion acquisition of one of its competitors, The Navigators Group. On the litigation side, Mayer Brown secured a victory for Lamps Plus before the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court in April ruled that “courts may not infer from an ambiguous agreement that parties have consented to arbitrate on a classwide basis.”
The firm added 62 lawyers to its ranks in 2019, including two equity partners and 21 nonequity partners. That included four new partners in its global restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency group: Adam Paul and Louis Chiappetta in Chicago, and Amy Jacks and Michael Fiddy in London.
Paul and Chiappetta’s respective jumps from Kirkland & Ellis and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom were two of the 533 lateral moves bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers made in the first 10 months of 2019, according to ALM Intelligence. Citi and Wells Fargo have each downgraded the potential threats of a recession.
Theiss said the firm is not “in the business of predicting an economic downturn or not.” He said those laterals were made to meet client demand, and that the firm’s restructuring practice isn’t busier than any of the other practices at the firm.
“High-end restructuring practitioners are busy whether there’s a recession or not,” Theiss said.
In Washington, Mayer Brown added Michael Levy, a former Paul Hastings partner who was worked on cases involving Enron, Fannie Mae, and the New England Patriots’ “Spygate” scandal. In Los Angeles, the firm added Jason Linder, the former head of Irell & Manella’s global investigations and anti-corruption practice, and partner Glenn Vanzura.
In the months since Linder and Vanzura’s departure, Irell announced it was abandoning most of its transactional practices in an effort to focus solely on high-value litigation work.
The firm also landed a team of three insurance lawyers from Dentons. The leader of that team, Kara Baysinger, is now the co-leader of Mayer Brown’s U.S. insurance regulatory and enforcement group.
The 2019 financial figures reported in this story are preliminary. ALM will report finalized data for the Am Law 200 in The American Lawyer’s May and June issues.
Reprinted with permission from the February 25, 2020 edition of The American Lawyer © 2020 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.