O’Melveny & Myers made across-the-board gains in key financial categories last year, according to The American Lawyer‘s reporting. In addition to boosting gross revenue 5.1 percent, to $818.5 million, the firm set new records in profits per partner and revenue per lawyer, with the former surging 19.4 percent, to $2.06 million, and the latter rising nearly 10 percent, to $1.1 million.
(Because O’Melveny changed its fiscal year-end in 2012 from the 31st of January to the 31st of December, all year-over-year comparisons compare calendar year 2012 to the 12-month period from February 2011 through January 2012.)
O’Melveny chair Bradley Butwin attributes last year’s strong performance to the firm’s work on behalf of clients in a wide range of industries and markets. "More than anything, this year was about breadth," says Butwin, pointing to a slew of substantial litigation matters, a flurry of big trials, an uptick in capital markets work, and a healthy entertainment, sports, and media practice.
On the litigation front, O’Melveny represented Bank of America, a major client, in several significant victories. Among them: a Central District of California case in which the firm convinced the court to dismiss claims seeking to hold the bank liable for billions of dollars in potential liabilities related to mortgage-backed securities issued by Countrywide Financial Corporation.
O’Melveny also represented Warner Brothers in its long-running copyright battle with the estates of Superman cocreators Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster, scoring a big win in mid-January when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Siegel’s heirs had signed away their rights to the iconic character in a 2001 agreement with Warner. The firm also succeeded in repelling a motion seeking class certification in a shareholder action filed against client China Agritech in California.
On the corporate side, O’Melveny advised Coller Capital in connection with its acquisition of a portfolio of private equity–related assets from Lloyds Banking Group plc for approximately $1.6 billion. The firm also advised a group led by Robert Pera in its purchase of the National Basketball Association’s Memphis Grizzlies franchise for a reported price of roughly $350 million.
O’Melveny has a long history of embracing alternative fee arrangements, and Butwin says that success fees for favorable outcomes and strong collections also factored into last year’s robust results. "In this environment, it’s all about being client-centric," he says. "It’s about being legal and business advisers, investing and taking risk together, and in some of the arrangements where we put skin in the game, we had success, and they paid off [this year]."
The firm’s overall attorney head count declined 3.7 percent to 738 last year, and its equity partnership ranks fell 1 percent to 182. Nonetheless, O’Melveny undertook its share of expansion in 2012, opening an office in Seoul in November and adding five finance and M&A partners from Dewey & LeBoeuf in May, including the now-defunct firm’s corporate and global finance chair, Richard Shutran. O’Melveny also recruited Michael Schiavone, the former head of Shearman & Sterling’s capital markets–Americas group, in April to serve as cohead of the firm’s capital markets practice.
Total compensation earned by all nonequity partners doubled to $13 million, Butwin says, because of the firm’s practice of paying lateral partners on a fixed basis during their stub year.
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 AmericanLawyer.com. The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.