Mayer Brown's Washington, D.C. offices
Mayer Brown’s Washington, D.C. offices (Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL)

Mayer Brown grew off its modest financial gains in 2015, as gross revenue inched up slightly last year, to $1.26 billion, while its lawyer ranks ballooned 5.2 percent. The firm’s equity partnership also grew by 3.1 percent in 2016.

While the gross revenue mark is a record for Mayer Brown, its head count expansion pushed down other financial metrics, including revenue per lawyer, which dropped 4.8 percent from a year ago, to $795,000. Profits per partner also fell 7.1 percent, to $1.45 million. That drop marked a return to 2014’s partner profit numbers following a 7.6 percent surge in 2015 to a high of $1.56 million.

Mayer Brown billed a bit more than 1 percent more hours in 2016, a year that saw the firm open an office in Dubai; raid K&L Gates to bring on more than 30 consumer finance lawyers in Washington, D.C.; and score a U.S. Supreme Court victory for client Spokeo Inc. in a landmark case that rolled back standing guidelines for plaintiffs in class actions.

“[In 2016 the firm had] its best year ever in terms of revenue and demand from our clients, and the second-best year in our history with regard to net income and profits per partner,” said Chicago-based chairman Paul Theiss, who has led Mayer Brown since 2012. “And it continues, we think, a very strong run of four years.”

Partner profits under Theiss’ leadership have risen 26 percent, while gross revenue has increased 15 percent. Mayer Brown is one of the country’s largest firms by head count—it ranked No. 15 on The National Law Journal’s NLJ500 last year—but the firm’s lawyers are less spread out than some of its global peers. The firm has offices of more than 200 lawyers in five cities: Chicago, Hong Kong, London, New York and Washington, D.C. Mayer Brown said it is the only firm with more than 200 lawyers in the world’s three largest financial centers of Hong Kong, London and New York.

Last year, more than 50 percent of the firm’s 100 largest clients by hours billed utilized the firm in all three of its regions: Europe, Asia and the Americas. A full 80 percent of those clients used the firm in at least two of those regions, Theiss said.

“Those numbers have gone up dramatically over the last four years, and it’s a signal of our clients continuing to turn to Mayer Brown for their most complex matters,” said Theiss, who like many large firm leaders today has taken note of the sweeping changes in the legal industry.

Mayer Brown brought on 49 lateral partners last year and promoted another 27 lawyers to partner. The laterals included Daniel Stein, a former chief of the criminal division in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, and Marjorie Loeb, a former senior vice president and general counsel at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. Mayer Brown’s Brazilian arm, Tauil & Chequer, also added Luís Adams, a former attorney general of Brazil.

In a couple of its largest deals, the firm last year represented Wells Fargo & Co. on its $32 billion acquisition of the commercial distribution finance and vendor finance business of GE Capital Corp., as well as TransCanada Corp. on its $13 billion acquisition of Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group Inc.

And Mayer Brown’s immigration practice also got a shot in the arm recently when President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim states. The firm wrote an amicus brief for a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that resulted in a suspension of the controversial ban. Theiss and other lawyers have said that immigration has become a hot topic for their global clients.

“Three years ago I wouldn’t have said that was a particularly acute need for our clients,” Theiss said.

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