For law firms, making headlines doesn’t always go hand in hand with generating profits (see: Dewey & LeBoeuf).
For Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which saw its financial fortunes improve yet again in 2013 while making plenty of news, there appears to be at least a strong correlation between the two. Paul Weiss’ profits per partner increased more than 8 percent last year, to $3.62 million, while its gross revenues rose nearly 7 percent, to $934.5 million, according to The American Lawyer’s reporting. On the hiring front, the firm added two partners and 51 lawyers, to increase its partnership ranks to 131 and its total attorney head count to 854.
What’s driving clients to the firm’s door? Consider some of the firm’s most recent accolades from The American Lawyer: Litigation Department of the Year in the contest’s securities litigation category and a Litigator of the Year award to partner Roberta Kaplan for her fight on behalf of marriage equality. In the past two weeks alone, Robert Schumer earned Dealmaker of the Week honors for his work representing Time Warner Cable in an industry-shaking $45 billion transaction, and Theodore Wells Jr. claimed Litigator of the Week honors for his damning report on the bullying culture inside the Miami Dolphins locker room. All that, plus a pair of major defense wins worth a total of more than $4 billion for key litigation client Citigroup Inc. since Feb. 18.
“Our demand in 2013 and the beginning of 2014 has been off the charts,” says Paul Weiss chair Brad Karp. “We tried more cases in 2013 than ever before … and we handled more multibillion-dollar transactional matters than ever before.” The firm has already tried four cases so far in 2014, Karp notes, while the Schumer-led team’s work on Time Warner’s proposed $45 billion acquisition by Comcast has been the dealmaking highlight.
As for last year’s growth, Karp says all of the firm’s offices helped drive what he describes as “record levels of activity” in the litigation and transactional groups. On the transactional front, Paul Weiss helped ink deals for Nexen Inc., Aurizon Mines Ltd., Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd., Oaktree Capital Management, Ericsson, Nielsen Holdings N.V., The Carlyle Group, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and Time Warner, among other clients.
Last year’s notable litigation engagements included several matters for Citigroup, including a March 2013 ruling (affirmed this week) rejecting a $4 billion arbitration claim by Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund. Paul Weiss also guided Citigroup to a $590 million investor settlement that won approval last August, and represented the bank in its $250 million mortgage-backed securities settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency in May—widely viewed as a smart deal for Citi. The firm had a knack for being in the middle of highly visible cases, representing the National Football League in its yet-to-be-approved $765 player concussion settlement, for example, and helping SAC Capital Advisors reach a $1.8 billion deal to resolve government insider trading claims.
Karp says that the financial crisis generated an unprecedented volume of “high-stakes, high-profile, transformative legal matters” that the firm is ideally situated to handle as they continue to wind their way through the courts. At the same time, he says, the crisis accelerated a widening gap between an elite group of top-performing law firms and those that have struggled—a gap that will remain even as the crisis recedes. Paul Weiss seems determined to stay on the right side of the divide.
This report is part of The Am Law Daily’s early coverage of 2013 financial results of The Am Law 100/200. Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer’s May 2014 issue and on AmericanLawyer.com. The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.