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Chart: California’s Million Dollar Club Call it the Million-Dollar Club. Firms with per-partner profits in the seven figures represent an exclusive circle many are itching to join. Firm chiefs say $1 million PPP gives them clout when wooing laterals and clients. “The benchmark has become significant,” said Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe Chairman Ralph Baxter Jr. “I think it’s more among firms than within firms.” Several Bay Area shops are pounding at the $1 million door, but not one has yet gained entry. Los Angeles players have fared better. In L.A., three AmLaw 100 members returned to the gilded clique in 2003 — Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, O’Melveny & Myers and Latham & Watkins. L.A.’s Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker cleared the hurdle for the first time. Other firms outside the AmLaw 100 have also made it in the door. L.A.’s Irell & Manella saw its PPP jump 31 percent to $1.17 million, behind Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, which saw PPP of $1.37 million last year. “I think it’s a number people strive for,” said Kerry Gibson, head of Citigroup’s Private Bank Law Firm Group’s West Coast operations. The profitability mark “is really important, and not necessarily easily attainable.” No firm will admit aiming for $1 million in PPP, and some firm leaders dismiss it as so much hype. Morrison & Foerster Chairman Keith Wetmore, whose firm’s profits per partner were $740,000, is quick to point out that numbers can be manipulated. Firms can de-equitize partners or initiate non-equity tiers for newer partners to inflate their numbers. Indeed, at the eight Bay Area firms on this year’s list, average PPP increased by 10 percent while their average gross revenue rose 7 percent. Even so, Wetmore admits, “There is an undeniable magic to a seven-figure income. MoFo’s ability to demonstrate multiple levels of income above $1 million is crucial for recruiting.” The next local AmLaw 100 firm to join the Million-Dollar Club may be Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, which brought in $945,000 PPP in 2003. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe followed with $865,000 and $835,000 respectively. Marina Park, managing partner of Pillsbury Winthrop, where partners averaged $745,000 in profits last year, said her firm’s management is keen on improving profitability. “We focus on where we are and what we need to do to get ahead,” she said. “There’s not a bogey we set as a million though it might not be a bad idea.” Latham & Watkins Chairman Robert Dell, whose firm sat near the top of the AmLaw 100 and the state’s $1 million PPP group, can afford to appreciate his good fortune publicly. Being in the club, he said, is “obviously better than not being in.”

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