Scott A. Edelman of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy.
Scott A. Edelman of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy. (Photo: Rick Kopstein/ALM)

Marking a fourth straight year of strong financial growth, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy posted a double-digit percentage increase in gross revenue in 2016, as profits per equity partner topped $3 million.

Net income totaled $463 million—a 15 percent increase over 2015.

The Wall Street firm saw its gross revenue jump to $855.5 million in 2016, an 11 percent increase over the $771 million Milbank reported in 2015. Profits per partner grew by 12.8 percent to $3.12 million, while revenue per lawyer at the 664-lawyer firm grew by 8.4 percent to $1.29 million.

The positive financial results in 2016 follow three prior years in which Milbank also posted solid growth in revenue and partner profits.

Reflecting on the year, Milbank chairman Scott Edelman had nothing but positive things to say about the firm’s performance in 2016, and that optimism extends to the firm’s outlook for 2017, he said. In addition to the increases in profits per partner and gross revenue, Edelman noted that his firm’s total billed hours were up about 5 percent, even amidst a market in which Citi Private Bank’s law firm group has reported relatively flat demand for legal services.

“In a year like this,” Edelman said, “it was tough to come up with many negatives.”

Edelman highlighted the firm’s litigation work in 2016, including the firm’s successful defense of AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co. in a case that accused the mutual fund adviser of charging excessive management and administrative fees. He also cited a win for client Broadcast Music Inc., the performing rights organization, in a challenge of a U.S. Justice Department directive on music licensing.

On the financial restructuring front, Edelman said that despite a relatively strong economy, Milbank’s restructuring lawyers “were so busy in coal, oil and gas and shipping,” and the firm also played a role in the Caesars bankruptcy as one of the firms representing parent company Caesars Entertainment Corp. in the run-up to a deal with junior bondholders.

Milbank’s corporate practice had its own string of notable representations in 2016, Edelman added. The firm advised longtime client Ultimate Fighting Championship on its $4 billion sale to a handful of private buyers—talent agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment LLC, private equity firms KKR & Co. LP, Silver Lake Partners LP, and the investment funds MSD Capital LP and MSD Partners LP, both of which are tied to computer magnate Michael Dell. Milbank also advised Revlon Inc. in that company’s roughly $870 million acquisition of fellow cosmetics and fragrance company Elizabeth Arden Inc.

“It really was just an outstanding year all around,” Edelman said of 2016. “In 2017, we continue to be off to a very strong start. The strong 2016 positions us very well for 2017.”

The firm made a number of notable hires in 2016, bringing in a three-lawyer real estate group from Allen & Overy in November, led by Kevin O’Shea. In December, the firm announced the hire of Katherine Goldstein, the former head of the securities and commodities fraud task force at the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York.

Edelman said Goldstein would join a thriving white-collar practice at Milbank. The group includes multiple alumni of the Manhattan federal prosecutor’s office, including George Canellos, who also served as co-chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division before rejoining Milbank in 2014.

“Our white-collar group continues to grow in stature,” Edelman said. “We’ve become the go-to firm for big banks and hedge funds.”

Overall, the total number of lawyers at the firm in 2016 increased 2.3 percent—rising to 664 from 649 in 2015. The number of nonequity partners dipped from 12 in 2015 to 10 in 2016, while the equity partnership ranks increased 2.1 percent, rising to 149 in 2016.