Jenner & Block had a down year in 2013, with revenue off nearly 8 percent, to $357.5 million, and profits per partner plummeting 17.1 percent, to $1.235 million. The firm’s revenue per lawyer dropped 7.8 percent, to $825,000.
It was the second straight year that the Chicago firm saw its finances either stagnate or slip: In 2012 Jenner’s revenue was essentially flat, while profits fell 3.6 percent.
Over the last several years, Jenner’s fortunes have been marked by significant swings in both directions. In the three years from 2009 to 2011, its PPP jumped by an average of 23 percent a year amid its work on several major matters. The most substantial of those was the investigation led by firm chairman Anton Valukas into the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings, which concluded with a lengthy report in 2010. (The firm earned $54 million for its work on that matter.) At the same time, Jenner boosted its profitability by shrinking its equity partner ranks.
In a statement, managing partner Susan Levy attributed some of the slippage to government gridlock. “Between 2008 and 2012, Jenner & Block was engaged in many high-profile client matters and had one of the largest profitability increases in The Am Law 100,” the statement said. “In 2013, many of our clients in the firm’s premier government contracts and defense industry practice were adversely impacted by the federal budget cuts, sequestration and the government shutdown, which also impacted the firm’s utilization and revenue.”
Among key departures in 2013 were real estate securities practice cochair Steven Meier, who moved to Seyfarth Shaw. Two insurance partners, Jerold Oshinsky and Linda Kornfeld, left for Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, and Lise Spacapan, who was cochair of the firm’s product liability practice, moved to Husch Blackwell.
At the same time, Jenner made some key hires. In December it added former Kaye Scholer partner G. Thomas Stromberg, who had been co–managing partner of his former firm’s Los Angeles and Palo Alto offices. In September it brought in Neil Barofsky, a former Manhattan federal prosecutor who served as the special inspector general to the government’s 2008 bank bailout program.
The firm has lost 11 partners in the early part of 2014. Addressing this year’s departures, Levy says, “Our overall partner head count has not materially changed over the last several years. Our attrition over the last year was generally in line with our normal partner attrition—27 partners left in 2013 and 11 in 2014. Departing partners often go in-house to clients, join the government or accept positions with public interest organizations. Some join other firms and others retire.”
So far this year, the firm has been tapped for two high-profile engagements. In March, General Motors Co. hired Valukas to colead an investigation into the company’s handling of complaints related to defective ignition switches in some of its vehicles; the defect, which caused the ignition to shut down when the switch was bumped or weighed down, has been linked by GM to at least 13 deaths.
In the second matter, Chicago-based partner Reid Schar was retained in January by a New Jersey General Assembly committee investigating last year’s shutdown of several lanes of the George Washington Bridge. The Asbury Park Press reported in March that Jenner had at that point billed the state legislature roughly $200,000 for its work on the matter.