Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison has posted its ninth straight year of revenue growth, pulling in more than $1.3 billion in 2017, according to preliminary ALM reporting. That’s up 6.5 percent from the prior year.
“We are clicking on all cylinders. So one of my major initiatives is not to screw up any of this,” said Brad Karp, who has served as Paul Weiss’ chairman since 2008.
Profits per equity partner rose 4.2 percent to more than $4.56 million and the equity partnership grew by 4.6 percent, adding five partners for 144 in all. Revenue per lawyer rose 2.2 percent to more than $1.3 million for the firm, which added 41 lawyers to reach an overall lawyer head count of 1,000 lawyers.
“Explosive growth in our transactional work” has continued to broaden the firm’s reputation, Karp said. Once best known for its white-collar criminal defense and litigation practices, the firm has solidified its M&A credentials, he said. In 2017, Paul Weiss advised Qualcomm, previously a longtime client of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, on a $103 billion offer from rival Broadcom Corp.
Paul Weiss also secured a lead role for Kraft Heinz on its proposed but then halted $143 billion sale to Uniliver. And the firm represented Xerox Corp. in its proposed merger with Fujifilm Holdings Corp., a deal that would create a company with $18 billion in annual revenue.
Over the course of one day this January, the firm closed transactions for five publicly traded clients, a record, Karp said.
In the private equity market, the firm moved up from 12th to 8th place in the most recent Vault.com legal adviser rankings. In 2017, it represented Apollo Global Management when it raised nearly $25 billion.
With its bankruptcy and corporate reorganization practice, the firm, once known for representing mostly creditors, took on high-profile debtors as well, taking the lead advising Cumulus Media Inc. on its Chapter 11 case.
Paul Weiss’ litigation practice has not slowed in the meantime, Karp said. In 2017, Karp led a team representing Banamex USA, a Mexican unit of Citigroup, which agreed to pay more than $97.4 million and enter into a nonprosecution agreement to settle allegations the company violated the Bank Secrecy Act.
Karp also cited the firm’s defense of the National Football League in litigation against plaintiffs who have sought damages tied to players’ concussion-related injuries. The dispute led to the creation of a $1 billion settlement fund, but legal battles persist.
The firm continued in 2017 to represent Exxon Mobil Corp. The oil giant is battling state attorneys general seeking to uncover what and when its management gained knowledge about the consequences of fossil fuels on climate change.
Karp has mainly kept his foot off the lateral hiring accelerator, he said, but the firm still made several significant hires. Those include Paul Basta, who was at Kirkland & Ellis and now co-chairs Paul Weiss’ bankruptcy and corporate reorganization practice; Jeh Johnson, the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, who was returning to the firm; and Alvaro Gomez de Membrillera Galiana, a corporate partner who switched from the London office of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett to join Paul Weiss there.
In 2018, Karp expects another robust revenue year, with plenty of business but no rush to hire laterals, no opening of far-flung offices, no seeking out exotic new practices, and no planned or intentional disturbances of the firm’s equilibrium. Or as he put it, not screwing up.
The American Lawyer will release its full report on the Am Law 100 in its May magazine.