Winston & Strawn’s Washington, D.C. offices on K Street. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)
It was a relatively stagnant financial year for Winston & Strawn, where gross revenue bumped up half a percent in 2016, to $823 million, while net income fell nearly 1 percent from 2015.
The firm topped $1 million in revenue per lawyer for the second straight year, helped in part by continuing a trend of shrinking head count. Total lawyers fell to 798 from 808 a year ago. Profits per partner rose 1.1 percent in 2016, to nearly $1.83 million. The tepid results come after a strong 2015 that saw Winston & Strawn see increases in several key financial metrics.
The firm, however, is not standing still following a year that managing partner Thomas Fitzgerald described as “solid.” Fitzgerald has overseen a flurry of lateral hires in recent weeks.
Those include nabbing 21 partners in Dallas earlier this month from eight different law firms; bringing on Lawrence Hill, the former head of Shearman & Sterling’s tax controversy practice; and in December picking off London finance partner Ian Borman from King & Wood Mallesons, a move that came after a report that Winston & Strawn was once viewed as a “frontrunner” to save the now-bankrupt European arm of KWM.
Winston & Strawn hired 24 lateral partners in 2016, according to data analyzed by ALM Intelligence, which does not include its recent 21-partner haul in Dallas. The firm’s fiscal year ended on Jan. 31.
Fitzgerald said Winston & Strawn’s growth was tempered in 2016 by a litigation market in which clients are more aggressively pursuing settling cases. He said that can be good for the firm in the long-run by building goodwill with clients, but it also means litigators must “scramble harder” to get cases.
“The moderation in our growth is really a result of the fact that clients continue to want us to produce more for less, which is consistent with the industry in which we live,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said corporate and transactional work bolstered Winston & Strawn last year. The firm’s practice was bolstered in 2015 by the hire of 19 partners from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, including Christopher Zochowski, now the co-chair of Winston & Strawn’s M&A and securities practice, and Jay Gould, co-head of its financial services group.
While Winston & Strawn is no stranger to pursuing large groups of lateral hires from one firm, it took a different approach to its recent growth in Dallas. The firm hired 21 partners from eight firms, including seven from Locke Lord, six from Fish & Richardson, three from Jones Day and one each from Greenberg Traurig, K&L Gates, Norton Rose Fulbright, Squire Patton Boggs and Miller, Egan, Molter & Nelson.
Bryan Goolsby, a former executive chair and managing partner of Locke Lord, and Thomas Melsheimer, managing partner of Fish & Richardson’s Dallas office, will co-head Winston & Strawn’s new outpost in the city.
The complex deal, which involved consulting clients, practice group heads and analyzing the Dallas legal market, took eight months to put together, Fitzgerald said. The Chicago-based firm leader watched his hometown Chicago Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years in Dallas, he said.
Fitzgerald said the high-profile names in Dallas will help his firm this year compete for big-ticket litigation in that market and others. The Fish & Richardson group, for instance, represents billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks. (After the team won the NBA championship in 2011, Melsheimer filed the legal equivalent of a slam dunk in court on behalf of Cuban.)
“We’re excited about this year,” Fitzgerald said. “We picked up wonderful people at the top of their game and we’re going to integrate those people into our firm.”