Firm chairman Jon Van Gorp noted strong leadership in European offices, and plans for growth in New York and California.
With 9% growth in demand, an emphasis on tech and finance, and a strategy incentivizing collaboration and plugging in clients across the platform, Mayer Brown saw revenue and profits grow by more than 20% last year.
The firm, which has 27 offices across the US., Europe, Asia and South America, grew gross revenue more tha n 21% to about $1.85 billion. Profits per equity partner were up nearly 23%, to about $2.47 million.
The firm grew net income by about 31% and revenue per lawyer by about 17%.
Firm chairman Jon Van Gorp said the recipe for those increases consisted of a particularly strong year in such practices as finance and real estate, which he called Mayer Brown's "calling cards," as well as fund work, capital markets and mergers and acquisitions. He also noted that demand increased, making for more lawyers doing more work, particularly for existing clients, and creating more opportunities across the firm.
"That's the playbook," Van Gorp said in an interview. "Finding local opportunities and then also delivering the firm globally to local clients to help them everywhere they have needs. Sometimes their most complex legal need is not in the location where we get to know them."
He said the firm's compensation structure specifically rewards collaboration, calling it "a bit of a secret sauce," but adding that it involves a process of identifying and incentivizing joint success.
He cited strong leadership in the firm's European offices, particularly Paris, London and Germany, and having partners blend local and international opportunities. He noted a large corporate transaction in Germany that was sourced from the U.S. and a litigation matter for a client based in Paris were a couple significant matters for the firm.
"In fact, the leader of our Paris office has—more than almost any other partner in the firm that I know of—taken local clients and created international work opportunities, because a lot of those are global conglomerates based in Paris and he's plugged them into other offices," Van Gorp said.
Like several other big firms, Mayer Brown recently opened an office in Salt Lake City (https://www.law.com/americanlawyer/2022/01/24/mayer-brown-launches-in-salt-lake-expecting-quick-growth/), which has grown to 17 lawyers.
Van Gorp said the firm is also planning to continue growing in New York and California, where it has offices in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Los Angeles. He said he thinks Mayer Brown can be competitive there given the firm's global reach and the emerging tech clients in the area. It's grown to 100 lawyers from 60 in the Golden State since 2017, Van Gorp said. And given the firm's financial services bent, being strong and having scale in New York is particularly important.
"We've grown nicely in New York around M&A, funds and capital markets in particular, That's been a real success story for us and we're going to continue to try and build there," Van Gorp said.
The firm hired 52 laterals in 2021, Van Gorp said. It increased its overall head count by 3.7%, to 1,748 from 1,685. The firm's equity ranks grew by 6.4%, to about 282 from 265, while the nonequity tier was fairly consistent in size.
Van Gorp said navigating the rest of 2022 will likely involve overcoming a few obstacles. For one, while COVID-19 case counts are on the downswing in the U.S., it's hitting other places harder than before, particularly Hong Kong. The firm is doing everything it can to help its partners there right now, Van Gorp said, and he expects the pandemic to remain a challenge going forward.
He said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is also a concern for everyone who manages a global business. The safety and stability of the countries and their people are top-of-mind, as are the remaining tensions and sanctions on Russia.
"Those are disruptive for the global flow of goods and interconnectedness of economies. So whether representing U.S. companies impacted or that have a global base like we do, it's going to impact business conditions," he said.
Inflation and how the world's central banks respond to it will also be on the firm's radar, Van Gorp said. While bankruptcy work hasn't picked up like most people expected, he said, the firm is now well-positioned if and when there is more restructuring work because it made several hires in that practice throughout the world.
But Van Gorp said he's optimistic about the firm's trajectory. He said he's focused on making Mayer Brown a place where lawyers of all levels want to stay. That involves mental health and wellness initiatives for offices, maintaining channels of communication between employees and increasing the commitment to pro bono work.
"I want to make this a place people want to spend their career, not a place people want to come for a couple years," he said. "A lot of things we do are guided toward that goal."
“Reprinted with permission from the March 17, 2022 edition of The American Lawyer © 2022 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.”