The 649-lawyer Wall Street firm saw its attorney head count rise 5.6 percent in 2015, up from 614 the year before. Milbank reported $771 million in gross revenue last year, an increase of 1.3 percent. Profits per partner remained mostly flat, ticking up 0.7 percent, to $2.765 million, as revenue per lawyer dropped 4 percent, to $1.19 million. Milbank’s net income rose 1.9 percent in 2015, to $402.5 million.
Scott Edelman, who in early 2013 succeeded longtime leader Mel Immergut as Milbank’s chairman, said that with 20 percent of the firm in Europe, adverse foreign exchange rates took some of the wind out of its financial sails in 2015. He added that some income for work generated at the end of last year wasn’t collected until early 2016.
“The first half was slower than the prior year, but the second half was very, very strong,” Edelman said. “We are projecting another strong year this year and significant increases in profits and revenues.”
Edelman said Milbank’s litigation practice was particularly strong in 2015, a trend he expects to continue. In early 2014, the firm brought back George Canellos from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, where he served as co-chief of the agency’s enforcement division. Federal government mandated restrictions on Canellos’ post-SEC career didn’t really lift until last year, Edelman said.
“His practice has really kicked into gear, and we are finding ourselves the law firm of choice when financial institutions have really serious issues,” added Edelman of Canellos, who serves as global head of Milbank’s litigation and arbitration group. “So that’s great for the whole department and the whole firm.”
Milbank also handled a number of significant trials in 2015, Edelman said, citing his own work for Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) in its suit against Pandora Media Inc., in which a federal judge in New York awarded BMI a 2.5 percent fee of revenue—a 43 percent increase—from the music streaming service for the rights to play songs from its catalog. Another Milbank team led by litigation partner Sean Murphy is currently defending Axa Equitable Life Insurance Co. against plaintiffs alleging that the New York-based insurance company violated the Investment Company Act of 1940 over mutual fund management fees.
On the transactional front, Milbank teamed up with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and British firm Macfarlanes to advise Visa Inc. on the credit card giant’s $23.3 billion reacquisition of its former unit Visa Europe Ltd. Edelman added that Dennis Dunne, the leader of Milbank’s financial restructuring group, had also landed lead roles on a number of notable engagements for energy and mining companies.
Among Milbank’s lateral additions last year were a trio of new partners in Europe, including Matthew Hagopian, the former co-head of the energy practice at Magic Circle firm Linklaters. Milbank also brought on Jones Day private equity partners Robert Kennedy and Brien Wassner for its global corporate group in New York.
The total number of equity partners at Milbank rose 1.1 percent last year, to 146, while the firm’s nonequity ranks increased from eight to 12. Nonequity partner compensation also rose 53.3 percent, from $7.5 million in 2014 to $11.5 million last year, which Edelman attributed to hiring lateral partners late in the year who started out as nonequity before achieving equity status in early 2016. Milbank’s total number of partners rose 3.7 percent last year, from 152 to 158.