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Brad Karp Paul Weiss chairman Brad Karp, 7 Nov 2017. Photo: David Handschuh/ALM

Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy have become the latest US firms to post rising revenue and partner profits for 2017, with both boosting their top line by more than 5%.

Paul Weiss enjoyed its ninth straight year of revenue growth, pulling in more than $1.3bn, according to preliminary ALM reporting, up 6.5% from the previous year.

“We are clicking on all cylinders. So one of my major initiatives is not to screw up any of this,” said Brad Karp, who has served as the US firm’s chairman since 2008.

Profits per equity partner (PEP) rose 4.2% to more than $4.56m and the equity partnership grew by 4.6%, adding five partners for 144 in all. Revenue per lawyer rose 2.2% to more than $1.3m for the firm, which added 41 lawyers to reach an overall lawyer headcount of 1,000 lawyers.

“Explosive growth in our transactional work,” has continued to broaden the firm’s reputation, Karp said. Once best known for its white-collar criminal defence and litigation practices, the firm has solidified its M&A credentials, he said. In 2017, Paul Weiss advised Qualcomm, previously a longstanding client of Cravath Swaine & Moore, on a $103bn offer from rival Broadcom Corp.

Paul Weiss also secured a lead role for Kraft Heinz on its proposed but then halted $143bn sale to Uniliver. And the firm represented Xerox on its proposed merger with Fujifilm Holdings, a deal that would create a company with $18bn in annual revenue.

During the course of one day this January, the firm closed transactions for five publicly traded clients – a record, Karp said.

Karp has mainly kept his foot off the lateral hiring accelerator, he said, but the firm still made several significant hires. Those include Kirkland & Ellis partner Paul Basta, who now co-chairs the firm’s bankruptcy and corporate reorganisation practice; Jeh Johnson, the former US Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration; and London corporate partner Alvaro Gomez de Membrillera Galiana, who joined from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

The firm also recently made its first ever partner promotion in London, with counsel Ramy Wahbeh made up in the City corporate team.

Milbank, meanwhile, saw PEP rise nearly 11% in 2017 to $3.46m, while revenue also rose substantially to more than $916m, according to preliminary ALM reporting.

The 690-lawyer firm’s 2017 financial results mark its fifth straight year of solid growth. Gross revenues were up 7.1%, climbing to $916.5m, while its PEP figure of $3.46m marks a 10.9% increase on last year’s figure.

The firm’s recent run of financial growth has coincided with the leadership tenure of Milbank chairman Scott Edelman, a former federal prosecutor who took the position in 2013 after it had been led for a long stretch by prior chairman Mel Immergut. Comparing 2017 with the firm’s 2013 results, Milbank’s revenue and net income have grown by nearly 30% and more than 27% respectively. During the same period, profits per partner have risen by nearly $1m.

“The firm’s been enormously successful over the last five years,” Edelman said. “Morale is very high, business is great and I’m optimistic about the future.”

In 2017, Milbank posted net income of $502.4m, a bump up of 8.5% compared with the prior year. Revenue per lawyer, meanwhile, grew 3% to $1.33m. The total number of lawyers at Milbank grew by 4%, rising to 690 in 2017 from 664 in 2016. The number of non-equity partners grew from 10 in 2016 to 14, while the equity partnership ranks decreased by 2.7% to 145.

Edelman said the drop in the equity partner numbers was the result of a few departures and retirements, and a relatively small amount of lateral hiring in 2017, when Milbank brought on three new partners. But he also noted that just a month and a half into 2018, the firm has already brought on six new partners. Based in London, those include a pair of high-yield debt specialists who joined from Shearman & Sterling, and a four-lawyer restructuring group that joined from Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft.

The firm’s 2017 financial results came alongside a busy stretch for lawyers in a number of different areas, according to Edelman.

“Everything’s positive, not just the dollars, but the growth of the practices,” the Milbank chairman said. “The success of last year was not a one-trick event. It was really deep and across the whole firm.”

The firm also recently announced that London revenues had risen 10% to $125m during 2017, with Edelman describing the City hires from Cadwalader and Shearman as “blockbusters”.

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