Cooley, Palo Alto, California
Cooley has delivered another strong year of financial growth, exceeding the $1 billion benchmark for gross revenue in 2017.
The firm saw that metric hit $1.07 billion last year, an increase of 10.1 percent from the $974 million that Cooley took in the year before. Revenue per lawyer rose 4.8 percent in 2017, to almost $1.2 million, while profits per equity partner jumped 6.2 percent, to $2.08 million.
Since 2010, the Silicon Valley-based firm has reported steady growth in revenue and head count, the latter of which rose 5 percent last year, to the 897-lawyer mark. Cooley also said that it had 305 partners, 208 of them equity and the remaining 98 nonequity.
Cooley CEO Joseph Conroy said the secret of his firm’s growth is its “aspiration” and “steady progress” to be “the great law firm of the new economy.”
The firm, which has started off 2018 by opening an office in Beijing and hiring the former head of Morrison & Foerster’s drones practice, has come a long way from the uncertain outlook that Cooley faced in the aftermath of the Dotcom bubble nearly 20 years ago.
“What really differentiates us [from other firms] is our deep historical ties to these industries that are now shaping the world: serving technology, life sciences and high-growth, innovative companies, investors and financial institutions,” said Conroy, who became head of the firm a decade ago.
Conroy attributed Cooley’s performance to its clients’ success in that innovative marketplace. As the technology industry matures, he added, Cooley has earned more revenue from industries that typically did not have any new companies in their field. And as Silicon Valley has become a larger part of the national and global economy, Cooley has reaped the benefits, handling capital markets, M&A and regulatory matters for its clients, as well as intellectual property and securities litigation.
Perhaps not surprisingly, when asked about partner promotions and lateral hires, Conroy said the fastest-growing practice for Cooley in 2017 was its startups and emerging companies group.
Conroy said Cooley is consciously putting more efforts to expand in three regions: California, the East Coast and London. (Cooley set up shop in London three years ago.) Cooley has also added 53 lawyers in Washington, D.C., over the last four years, according to data compiled by ALM Intelligence, thanks in part to the firm’s late 2013 absorption of Dow Lohnes.
“For us, our focus has been to grow in those power centers, and grow in a way that we tie all the pieces together to deliver something truly integrated and distinctive,” Conroy said. He expects even more growth in the nation’s capital as Silicon Valley’s technology giants clash with increased calls for regulatory oversight in Washington, D.C.
To meet the increased needs of its technology clients on the East Coast, Cooley recruited four partners last summer in New York and Washington, D.C., from Silicon Valley rival Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Cooley also hired three cybersecurity experts in Denver, New York and Washington, D.C., last month from Norton Rose Fulbright.
Cooley also hired Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom corporate partner Michal Berkner last week in London, which remains the firm’s sole outpost in Europe. In order to expand its operations on the continent, Conroy said that Cooley is examining potential opportunities in Germany. In Asia, where Cooley recently set up shop in Beijing to focus on private investment fund formation and structuring work, the firm also has a Shanghai outpost that it opened in 2011.
The Palo Alto, California-based firm added five equity partners last year, increasing its equity partner head count by 2.2 percent from 2016. The number of nonpartners at Cooley grew 8.9 percent. Cooley also hired 15 lateral partners and the firm’s total head count grew by 43.
Another issue on Conroy’s to-do list is to make Cooley a more diverse firm. ALM Intelligence data shows that only 11 percent of the partnership at Cooley is not Caucasian, with about 41 percent of partners being female. Conroy said his goal to increase the diversity of the management group so it mirrors the representation of first-year associates hired by the firm. Asked about the percentage he would like to see Cooley improve in that regard, Conroy had a simple answer.
“Better,” he said. “Way better.”