“It’s a very growth-focused strategy, particularly in the U.S. and the U.K., and the numbers reflect the impact of that growth,” said chairman Hugh Verrier, who has led the firm since 2007.
White & Case’s gross revenue grew 10.6 percent to $1.8 billion in 2017, a new record for the firm, and up from $1.63 billion the year prior. Revenue per lawyer increased 6.2 percent, to $885,000, while profits per partner jumped 10.2 percent, to $2.26 million.
The 2,039-lawyer firm saw its overall head count grow 4.2 percent across all of its 41 offices around the world. White & Case also saw its number of equity partners rise 6.7 percent, to 319, while its nonequity partnership tier increased 11.9 percent, to 179.
In late 2015, the global legal giant set out to grow its London and New York offices to about 500 lawyers apiece by expanding its capital markets, disputes, M&A and private equity expertise. Verrier said those locales and practice groups proved to be the foundation for White & Case’s strong financial performance in 2017.
“We’re hitting all our targets, and it’s full steam ahead,” Verrier said.
Fueled by strong M&A activity in the U.S., the firm grabbed roles on several high-profile deals. White & Case advised Houston-based Calpine Corp. in $5.6 billion sale to an investor group led by Energy Capital Partners. The firm also represented San Diego-based electric and gas utility company Sempra Energy on its $9.45 billion acquisition of Dallas-based Energy Future Holdings Corp. and its stake in Oncor Electric Delivery Co.
Globally, the firm took the lead for United Arab Shipping Co. and its major shareholders the Qatar Investment Authority and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia in a combination with German shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd AG that created the world’s fifth-largest liner shipping company. The Saudi Arabian Oil Co., a longtime White & Case client that the firm has been advising on its efforts to pursue a potential initial public offering, also turned to the firm to handle a $7 billion investment in its Malaysian state-owned counterpart Petronas.
White & Case, founded in New York in 1901, also unveiled a new office in the McGraw-Hill Building in midtown Manhattan focused on creating a communal working space for its lawyers and staff, including napping pods. The firm opened another disputes-focused office in Uzbekistan and is also reportedly poised to open an outpost in Houston after hiring lawyers from Andrews Kurth Kenyon and Vinson & Elkins.
On the lateral market front, White & Case did see two top private equity partners leave its London office last year, as Richard Youle and Katja Butler joined Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. But last month White & Case welcomed Weil, Gotshal & Manges co-head of international dispute resolution Hannah Field-Lowes in London, where last year White & Case reeled in Ropes & Gray restructuring finance partner Chris McGarry.
White & Case has been busy hiring partners throughout Europe, having landed Linklaters M&A partner Daniel Turgel last month in London, as well as Clifford Chance global banking partner Mattias von Buttlar in Frankfurt. In Asia, where White & Case saw local restructuring and insolvency partner Damien Whitehead decamp in December for Ashurst, the firm picked up Skadden counsel Andre Zhu as a corporate partner in Beijing. In New York, White & Case welcomed Norton Rose Fulbright M&A and private equity partner Marwan Azzi and added Allen & Overy project finance partner Dolly Mirchandani.
While he most certainly takes pride in the financial performance and trajectory of the firm, Verrier is quick to point out an important milestone in White & Case’s history.
Following a nine-year collaboration with the Kingdom of Bhutan, the firm helped the tiny South Asian country establish its first-ever law school last summer. The Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law will see its first graduates in 2022.