Davis Polk & Wardwell saw its profits per partner surge 22.5 percent last year, to $2.94 million, while the firm’s gross revenue rose a more modest 5.4 percent, according to The American Lawyer’s reporting. On the head count front, Davis Polk’s overall attorney population ticked up 2 percent, to 804, while its partnership ranks fell by 4 percent, from 159 to 153.
While declining to confirm specific financial information, Davis Polk chairman and managing partner Thomas Reid says 2013 was “really a tremendous year for us” in all major practice areas.
Among the areas Reid cites as particularly busy: litigation, enforcement and white-collar defense; M&A and capital markets (especially leveraged finance); bankruptcy and restructuring; and financial institutions regulatory work. He also says Davis Polk’s performance was driven by the firm’s ability to land assignments, not by any increase in how it bills clients: “The growth in revenue was entirely driven by gains in market share and [was] not rate-driven.”
Reid, who was reelected to a seond three-year term as chairman and managing partner this week, says the dip in the partnership ranks was a product of 10 partners retiring. (Corporate head John Bick was also reelected to his post on the firm’s management committee, while head of litigation James Rouhandeh fills out the leadership troika.)
The retirement losses were largely offset by a batch of lateral hires that included former Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz; former U.S. attorney for Virginia’s Eastern District Neil MacBride; Brian Lichter, a real estate partner previously with Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; ex–Shearman & Sterling corporate finance specialist Monica Holland; and Nick Benham, a finance lawyer from Ashurst. Davis Polk also promoted three partners from within.
Headlining last year’s highlights for Davis Polk’s corporate group were its representation of H.J. Heinz in the company’s $28 billion acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway and Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital in February; Comcast Corporation in its acquisition of General Electric Company’s $16.7 billion stake in NBCUniversal Media LLC in February; generic drug maker Warner Chilcott in its $8.5 billion acquisition by rival Activis in May; and CNOOC Limited in its purchase of Nexen Inc. in a cross-border transaction named the Global M&A Deal of the Year by The American Lawyer in September that involved advising on CNOOC’s $4 billion bond offering and its U.S. CFIUS review. The firm also represented the underwriters in the $1.8 billion Twitter IPO.
The firm’s credit, leveraged finance and restructuring lawyers, meanwhile, kept busy serving as counsel to Lehman Brothers International Europe in a multibillion-dollar settlement with Lehman Brothers Inc. last February; representing Patriot Coal Corporation in its 18-month Chapter 11 bankruptcy; and advising Pinnacle Airlines Corp. in bankruptcy proceedings that resulted in a liquidation plan being confirmed in April.
As for Davis Polk’s litigators, Reid says they “could not have been busier last year.” The firm’s litigation engagements in 2013 included representing Bank of America Corporation in the massive consolidated LIBOR antitrust litigation, while also serving as the court-appointed liaison counsel for all the bank defendants in the matter and winning a major ruling dismissing a substantial part of the claims last March. David Polk lawyers also won a bankruptcy litigation trial victory in May on behalf of client Patriot Coal in a dispute with the United Mine Workers of America. The firm has also been representing Proskauer Rose in a $7 billion class action claim filed by victims of convicted Ponzi artist R. Allen Stanford.
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.