(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)
When fast-growing Cooley boosted its gross revenue by nearly 14 percent in 2015, CEO Joseph Conroy cautioned that corporate activity would likely slow last year and the firm’s partner profits might dip. But that’s not exactly how things turned out in 2016.
Though last year did bring a more challenging economic climate, Cooley’s gross revenue climbed to $974 million, an increase of 6.8 percent. Revenue per lawyer stayed steady at $1.14 million, while profits per partner rose 4.2 percent, to nearly $1.97 million.
“I would have predicted, given our historic performance in capital markets in 2015, a drop-off,” Conroy said. “But the second half of the year turned out to be stronger than we thought it’d be. I think the capital markets got a little less queasy in the second half of the year.”
Conroy attributed Cooley’s ability to weather the slowdown to strong performance in the firm’s core practice areas, including technology, life sciences and venture capital. Cooley lawyers advised on more than 200 M&A deals in 2016, including the $14 billion sale of San Francisco-based biopharmaceutical company Medivation to Pfizer Inc., which was the largest transaction in Cooley’s history. A team from the firm is also taking the lead for Snap Inc. on a proposed $3 billion initial public offering, which the Snapchat parent company announced earlier this month after filing confidentially late last year.
Cooley also had a successful year on the litigation front, including an appellate win for the pharmaceutical company Patheon Inc. in a $380 million antitrust battle with its former joint venture partner Procaps SA.
The firm added seven equity partners last year, increasing its equity partner head count 3.6 percent from 2015. Cooley also hired 23 lateral partners, and its total head count grew by 53. That includes a team of three New York-based international arbitration partners—”not a practice that we’ve historically been large in, but a practice that is increasingly important to us and our clients,” Conroy said—that it snagged from Chadbourne & Parke in December.
Four of those lateral hires were in London, where Cooley launched its first European office in early 2015. The firm’s U.K. head count stands at 80 lawyers, a 45 percent increase from when the office opened. Cooley developed a separate business plan for London this year, which Conroy said it beat. The firm, which saw its London arm generate almost $50 million in revenue last year, handled U.K. litigation matters for clients like billionaire Bernie Ecclestone’s Bambino Holdings Ltd., global information technology consultancy Ciber Inc. and the British overseas territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“In 2017, I think we are looking for strong revenue growth not just because we’re going to continue to execute well in our core markets, but because we’re going to continue to knit together this group of lawyers we’ve added in the past few years,” Conroy said.
That group also includes more than 50 lawyers who Cooley picked up when it acquired the bulk of Washington, D.C.-based Dow Lohnes in 2014. In 2017, Conroy said his firm aims to continue expanding in the nation’s capital and London, while also focusing on Boston, California and New York. (Cooley, which adopted its current name in 2010, acquired New York’s Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman in 2006.)
In general, Conroy’s outlook for the year ahead is rosier than it was this time last year.
“We are very optimistic about 2017,” he said. “We expect another year of prudent growth and investment for the firm.”
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