The St. Louis-based Am Law 100 firm saw gross revenue dip 2.5 percent, to $592.6 million, as profits per equity partner fell nearly 7 percent, to $804,000. Revenue per lawyer remained flat at $700,000. Bryan Cave’s top-line figure has fallen four straight years by a total of 7.8 percent since it topped out at $643 million in fiscal 2013.
A firm spokeswoman issued a brief statement noting that Bryan Cave is “very pleased” with the “extremely strong” financials. A decrease in mortgage litigation work and slightly shrinking head count (down 2.6 percent to 847 lawyers) partly accounted for the gross revenue dip, the statement said.
“We expect the pending combination with Berwin Leighton Paisner to grow revenues and boost profitability as a direct result of our improved ability to provide our clients with broader and deeper legal services,” said Bryan Cave in its statement.
This year will be the last set of financial figures reported by Bryan Cave before it becomes Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner on March 31. That merger is expected to create a combined firm of some 1,600 lawyers with more than $900 million in gross revenue.
A firm with $900 million in gross revenue last year would have ranked No. 37 in the most recent Am Law 100 list and No. 44 in the Global 100 rankings, directly between McDermott Will & Emery and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in both tables.
For its part, Berwin Leighton saw gross revenue rise 7 percent, to £272 million (roughly $376 million at current exchange rates), as partner profits fell nearly 8 percent, to £630,000 ($871,416), in the British firm’s latest reported financial performance for fiscal 2016-17.
Bryan Cave last year trimmed its nonequity partner ranks by 6.2 percent, down to 166 income partners. Its equity partner ranks grew 2.5 percent to 204 partners, up from 199 the year before, helping explain some of the decrease in profits per partner.
Berwin Leighton’s partners will be interested in that figure, as the combination they are entering into is one of the few fully financially integrated trans-Atlantic law firm mergers. That union, and the tax issues it proposes, caused a delay in the merger vote after the deal talks were confirmed by both firms in October.
In an earlier interview, Bryan Cave chair Therese Pritchard said the single-profit pool structure made it easier to reward partners for working together across geographies than a Swiss verein construction.
“In our mind it provides the incentives to find the best people in the firm to service the clients’ needs,” Pritchard said. “And we think at the end of the day that is a better way to operate. We are all in it together.”