Mayer Brown in 2018 enjoyed one of its strongest financial performances in recent years, driven by nearly doubling its corporate practice in New York and more cross-border legal matters.
The Chicago-founded international firm’s revenue grew nearly 6 percent last year to just shy of $1.4 billion, according to preliminary ALM data. Profits per equity partner rose 8 percent to $1.7 million, and revenue per lawyer was up nearly 6 percent, at $885,000. The firm’s head count was virtually flat at 1,570 lawyers, while its ranks of equity partners declined by about 6 percent to 274.
Part of the firm’s success was due to growth in its New York corporate practice, where head count rose from about 30 lawyers to more than 60 during the year, firm chairman Paul Theiss said in an interview.
Meanwhile, a record 66 of the firm’s top 100 clients by revenue worked with Mayer Brown lawyers in all three of its international regions (The Americas, Asia and Europe), Theiss said.
The firm’s financial performance was fairly even across the board, Theiss said. All three regions saw revenue and PEP rise between 5 and 9 percent from the prior year, and its transactional and litigation practices grew in roughly equal amounts, Theiss said. The firm opened a Tokyo office in 2018.
“That is the sign of a healthy and thriving law firm,” Theiss said. “Across geographies and across practice areas we continue to improve together. And our clients value that, and our partners value that.”
Mayer Brown last year hired 50 lateral partners and has made about 10 more hires this year, Theiss said.
Some of those notable hires last year included Nicole Saharsky, the former co-chair of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s constitutional law practice; Glen Kopp, a former chair of Bracewell’s white-collar practice group in New York; Hallam Chow, a Beijing-based former project finance partner at White & Case; a number of partners in Tokyo; and a pair of London-based partners that included Sam Eastwood, the former head Norton Rose Fulbright’s business ethics and anti-corruption group.
Despite the new partner hires, Mayer Brown’s equity partnership has fallen the last two years, including the 6 percent drop last year. Theiss characterized the decline in the firm’s equity partner ranks as “an aberration” mostly due to a high number of retirements.
Not all the firm’s hires worked out. James Tanenbaum, who joined the firm’s capital markets group from Morrison & Foerster, resigned from Mayer Brown shortly after he joined after it surfaced that he faced sexual harassment allegations at his prior firm. (In a letter to ALM editors last year, Tanenbaum said he “never harassed anyone or intentionally made anyone feel uncomfortable.”)
Mayer Brown last year also suffered the loss of the highly lauded leader and founder of its Supreme Court practice, Stephen Shapiro, who was killed in August. Shapiro’s brother-in-law faces a murder charge in his death.
In the first few months of 2019, Mayer Brown has made a handful of notable hires, including Steven Tran, a Hong Kong-based M&A partner formerly at Hogan Lovells; Paul Chen, a former leader of DLA Piper’s U.S. insurance transactions team in Northern California; and, also in Northern California, a three-partner insurance team led by former Dentons global insurance practice co-leader Kara Baysinger.
The firm’s top-line growth last year represents its sixth straight year of revenue growth. The firm’s PEP in that time has grown by nearly 50 percent.
Theiss said the firm would continue to focus on adding talent to make its international platform more attractive to existing and potential clients. He noted the lateral market is the most competitive he has seen it since his career began in 1985 at Mayer Brown.
“The competition is taking place for talent, and it’s also taking place in the hearts and minds of our clients,” Theiss said. “We think the hallmarks of Mayer Brown are a relentless focus on professional excellence and client service, and that’s how we continue to be leaders in driving the firm forward.”