Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft saw a solid 4 percent increase in gross revenue and a robust 11.6 percent jump in profits per partner in 2012—the first increase in profits it has enjoyed since 2009, according to reporting by The American Lawyer. For the year, the firm’s gross revenue rose to $466.5 million, while profits per partner swelled to $2.65 million.

Cadwalader chairman W. Christopher White sees a simple explanation for the firm’s strong performance last year.

"The difference between 2012 and 2011 was the significant increase in transactional work," White says. "Our litigation and restructuring areas continued to perform well, but our transactional and corporate lawyers were very busy." He adds that Cadwalader is aggressively hiring in those areas: "We can’t get enough talented corporate and finance lawyers." (Earlier this month, the firm lured Rose Zsu, a capital markets, M&A, and bank finance partner from K&L Gates, to its Bejing office.)

While declining to discuss specific clients or matters, White says the uptick in activity spanned everything from energy and structured finance work to private equity and Dodd-Frank assignments for several major financial institutions. Cadwalader’s transactional work last year included representing medical device manufacturer AngioDynamics on its $372 million acquisition of Navilyst Medical and American Renewables LLC in connection with a $500 million project finance deal.

On the litigation front, White says Cadwalader’s investigatory groups, including its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act practice, continued to stay busy. The firm represented pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in connection with a $15 million settlement announced in August with the U.S. Department of Justice over an FCPA investigation. Cadwalader continues to represent a trustee for certain notes and pass-through certificates in the restructuring of Dynegy Inc.

The New York–based firm reduced its overall attorney head count by 6 percent to 435, a change that contributed to an 11.4 percent increase in its revenue per lawyer, to $1.075 million. The total numbers of both equity and nonequity partners remained the same (55 and 46, respectively).

White says the decline in total lawyers was not the result of cost-cutting or some other intentional strategy. He concedes, however, that to the extent that the firm saw attrition in its litigation or restructuring practices, "we’re probably not running out to replace those lawyers as quickly as we would have [in the past]. We see the business cycle as shifting."

This report is part of The Am Law Daily‘s early coverage of 2012 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 2013 issue and on The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.