SAN FRANCISCO — Cooley saw net income skyrocket 21.1 percent to $369.5 million as revenue surged 13.7 percent to $912 million.
That translated into revenue per lawyer of $1.14 million, an enviable 7.5 percent increase. Profits per partner rose 8.6 percent to $1.89 million.
“This is a continuation of a number of years where we’ve seen an uptick in the value of our engagement,” said Cooley CEO Joe Conroy. “We’ve had bigger, more profitable, more high-profile matters, both on the business and the litigation sides.”
In 2015, Cooley attorneys advised on more than 190 mergers and acquisitions and on 98 public offerings, including 32 initial public offerings. In June, a local team represented Cisco Systems Inc. in its purchase of OpenDNS Inc. for $635 million, and in October, the firm advised Mountain View-based Pure Storage Inc. in its $425 million IPO. On the litigation front, Cooley’s lawyers helped get a high-dollar privacy lawsuit dismissed for its client Facebook Inc. and in October, the firm settled a trademark suit against its client Oculus VR Inc. the day before the scheduled trial began.
Conroy said Cooley expanded its brand recognition this year through its high-profile work and through its expansion into new markets and practices. In 2014, the firm acquired the lawyers and the regulatory practice of Washington D.C.’s Dow Lohnes. In 2015, Cooley opened its first European outpost with an office in London, staffed with five lateral partners from Morrison & Foerster and 14 lateral partners from Edwards Wildman Palmer. Conroy said that adding these offices and practices is part of Cooley’s plan to be an elite firm.
“Not elite in technology. Not elite in California. But elite in brand, in finances, in clients you represent and the results you get,” Conroy said. “You have to develop these practices.”
Conroy said Cooley was able to cross-sell the Dow Lohnes brand and expertise to its existing clients and that the London shop was a necessity for some clients doing business across the pond. The office represented U.K.-based Advanced Computer Software Group in its go-private sale to Vista Equity Partners for £750 million.
In growing its top and bottom lines, Cooley also saw head count expand. It ended the year with 20 more equity partners, an 11 percent increase; the number of nonpartners grew 5 percent.
Conroy predicted that corporate and litigation activity would slow in 2016. He said his outlook wasn’t based on any “underlying, systemic issues in our core client base.” Rather, it felt like a gut reaction, he said.
“Me saying that corporate might be softer comes from the perspective of: How could it not be softer?” Conroy said, noting that its capital-markets practices performed exceedingly well in the past two years. And given the challenging economic climate the new year seems to have ushered in, Conroy said the firms profits per partner could dip.
“We plan to have another up year, maybe not like this year, but what it really comes down to is: When we’re growing the way we’re growing, at some point in time there is dilution in profit per partner,” Conroy said. “As long as our revenue per lawyer is up, though, that’s what’s important.”
This report is part of ALM’s early coverage of 2015 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 2016 issue and on AmericanLawyer.com. Am Law Second Hundred rankings will be published in the June issue.
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