Starting the year at an all-time high financially, Latham & Watkins made modest gains in all the key fiscal categories in 2013, growing gross revenue 2.7 percent, to $2.285 billion; profits per partner 2 percent, to $2.49 million; and revenue per lawyer 1.4 percent, to $1.1 million, according to The American Lawyer reporting.
“Performance was fairly consistent across the whole global platform,” says Robert Dell, who plans to step down as global chair at the end of 2014.
Practice highlights in 2013 included advising US Airways Group on its $11 billion merger with American Airlines parent AMR, and Pertamina on its $5 billion bond program in Singapore. When it came to the lateral hiring market, Latham nabbed four IP litigation partners from Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, and four German partners from Shearman & Sterling to open an office in Düsseldorf.
The firm has seen steady growth over the 20 years of Dell’s reign, from a starting point of $262 million in revenue and $550,000 profits per partner in 1994. Over the same period, the firm nearly tripled the number of offices it has, from 11 to 31.
“We went from being a West Coast–heavy national firm to a clearly global firm without a huge concentration in any one office,” Dell says. “That’s the biggest change.”
Asked what has been most consistent about the firm under his watch, Dell replied simply: “The culture.” To reinforce that point, he said Latham has tried for the past two decades to develop a strong collegial environment by making the firm’s economics transparent to all of its lawyers, and by stressing teamwork in hiring, compensation, and promotion—and even purging successful new partners who fail the Latham’s collegiality test. “That,” Dell said, “really sends a signal.”
Dell said that in his mind, the true secret to his—and the firm’s—success is what Latham didn’t do. “I’m proud that we’ve grown to this level without mergers,” he said. “It allowed us to not risk compromising our culture.”
This report is part of The Am Law Daily’s early coverage of 2013 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 2014 issue and on AmericanLawyer.com. The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.