Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr's profits per partner climbed by about 7 percent last year and gross revenue dipped slightly, the firm said Monday.
The firm's PPP rose from $1.08 million to $1.16 million in 2009, an increase that William Perlstein, co-managing partner of the firm, attributed to "at least a dozen" partners leaving the firm to join the Obama administration. The firm's revenue dropped 1.5 percent, going from $955 million in 2008 to $941 million. The revenue per lawyer also fell by 1.8 percent to $1.01 million.
According to the firm, Wilmer currently has 934 full-time equivalent lawyers in the U.S. That number is up slightly from the 930 lawyers Wilmer reported last year. That said, as Perlstein noted, the firm's partner headcount slid a bit last year, going from roughly 330 partners in 2008 to 318 in 2009.
Perlstein said this year's revenue was off slightly due to the economic downturn, but that in the latter half of the year Wilmer saw a strong increase in workload. He said that intellectual property litigation was particularly strong, rising "over 10 percent" last year. Perlstein said that practice posted the most dramatic increase at the firm.
He added the firm's international arbitration, securities enforcement, bankruptcy and antitrust practices also fared well and that Wilmer's transactional practices are starting to see an increase in work as well.
The National Law Journal reported last week that Wilmer, Howrey and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher are representing Intel in a competition dispute before the Federal Trade Commission. According to court documents, partners James Burling, Eric Mahr and Leon Greenfield and counsel Wendy Terry are working on the case. That case has Wilmer lawyers working with Intel's general counsel, Douglas Melamed, who until November had been a partner in the firm's Washington, D.C., office.
"We were down slightly in revenue because a lot of the transactional work fell off last year," Perlstein said. "But we have seen an increase in [initial public offerings] and in litigation work, so we're looking quite strong." Last year, the firm advised LogMeIn and A123 Systems on their IPOs and counseled 25 other companies that have since gone public, raising $14 billion for stakeholders.
Like many other firms, Wilmer has been making cuts to its expense budget, trimming travel costs and not replacing staff that leave the firm. "We've been watching that carefully. Our expense budget is under what it was in 2008 but also in 2007," he said. The firm laid off 57 staff members in October.
According to the NLJ 250, our survey of headcount data, Wilmer reported 998 lawyers as of Sept. 30 compared to 974 in the 2008 survey. But Perlstein said the firm has seen a slight drop overall since then, which he attributed to the firm's deferral of its incoming class of associates. The firm has between 80 and 90 associates spread across its five U.S. offices.
Wilmer also made headlines in June when The National Law Journal reported that the firm had been telling associates and counsel that they wouldn't have jobs at the firm after this coming fall. Perlstein acknowledged at the time that some of the cuts were tied to the economic downturn.
On the partner side, Perlstein pointed to lawyers like David Ogden who opted to join the Obama administration. Ogden left the firm in March to become deputy attorney general. In December, Ogden announced that he was stepping down from the DAG position to return to Wilmer early next month. But pending congressional confirmation, Ogden's return may be cancelled out by the departure of Ronald Machen, who is President Barack Obama's pick to serve as Washington's U.S. Attorney.
The firm also lost partners such as William Wilkins, who became chief counsel of the IRS; Jeannie Rhee and Jonathan Cedarbaum, who are both now serving as deputy assistant attorneys general in the Office of Legal Counsel; Stephen Preston, now chief counsel for the CIA; and Mark Cahn, who is now deputy general counsel at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"That's just the function of who a law firm has and it's part of doing business as a firm with a major Washington office," Perlstein said.
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.