Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson registered across-the-board declines in key financial categories last year, as gross revenue slid 6.3 percent, to $444 million, revenue per lawyer dipped 2.6 percent, to $935,000, and profits per partner plunged 16.8 percent, to $1.315 million, according to The American Lawyer‘s reporting.
Fried Fried chair Valerie Ford Jacob, who also heads the firm’s capital markets group, blames the lagging results on the fact that 2012 broke down into two distinct parts. “Our year was basically a year of two halves,” Jacob says. “We had great momentum in the second half of the year, but a slower period in the first half, so that we ended up essentially flat on time value and billings year-over-year.”
The muted financial performance came as Fried Frank’s overall head count declined 3.8 percent, to 476 lawyers. At 134 attorneys, the equity partner ranks were unchanged. The nonequity partnership ranks also remained unchanged at seven.
In explaining the falloff in both gross revenue and profits, Jacob notes that a handful of major litigation matters the firm handled in 2011—including several insider trading cases— settled or otherwise went dormant early last year. Litigation picked up as 2012 wore on, she says, with the firm adding several new matters, including representing Wells Fargo Bank N.A. in a False Claims Act case related to alleged home mortgage abuses.
Among the firm’s other highlights on the litigation front last year: representation of The Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company in a case against the U.S. subsidiary of Banco Santander SA over the Spanish bank’s refusal to increase the coupon rate of certain convertible securities.
In terms of transactional work, Fried Frank represented Houghton International Inc., a provider of industrial fluids, in its acquisition by a U.K. subsidiary of Gulf Oil Corp. for $1.045 billion. The firm also represented London-based private equity firm Permira in connection with the acquisition of publicly traded genealogy website Ancestry.com in a deal valued at $1.6 billion. Fried Frank also served as counsel to Deutsche Bank in its role as financial adviser to Dole Food Company on the sale of its packaged foods and Asia fresh produce business to Itochu Corp. for $1.6 billion.
Looking ahead, Jacob says that the early part of 2013 is mirroring the latter half of last year. One major ongoing engagement is the firm’s role representing Virgin Media Inc. in its agreement to be acquired by cable company Liberty Global Inc., for $23.3 billion. Says Jacob: "Our 2012 numbers aren’t as good as we would have liked, but we feel very good about the positive direction of our current momentum."
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