In its third consecutive year of growth in several key financial metrics, the firm saw gross revenue rise 14.1 percent in 2017, to $634.9 million, up from $556 million the year before. Revenue per lawyer rose 2.2 percent, to $1.29 million, while its profits per partner jumped nearly 17 percent, to $2.94 million.
This financial success is a direct result of a strategic plan implemented by the New York-based Am Law 100 firm in 2014 that focuses on advising clients on their most complex, sophisticated work and growing its six core transactional practices—asset management, capital markets, finance, M&A, private equity and real estate—in the U.S. and Europe, said Fried Frank’s global chairman David Greenwald.
“The efforts of everyone at the firm in executing our strategy has been central to the success we’ve achieved,” added Greenwald, a former deputy general counsel at The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. who returned to the firm in 2013 and took over as leader the following year amid the departure of Valerie Ford Jacob to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Overall head count at Fried Frank also increased 11.6 percent last year, to 491 lawyers, up from from 440 in 2016. The number of equity partners at the firm ticked up 3.8 percent, to 109, up from 105 the year before.
Fried Frank, whose fiscal year ended on Feb. 28, saw strong performances across all of its practices globally, Greenwald said. The firm’s gross revenue growth was driven primarily by its asset management, capital markets, litigation and real estate. (Real estate remains a premier practice at Fried Frank, which each year sponsors a holiday gala in New York attended by property industry titans.)
Thanks to an active transactional market in the U.S., Greenwald said that Fried Frank was able to expand its client base and gain market share in 2017. In addition, the firm’s London office, which brought on Ashurst real estate duo Darren Rogers and Patrick Williams, has “paid dividends” and continues to grow along with Fried Frank’s business in Europe, Greenwald said.
“We continue to focus on executing our strategy and meeting the growing demands of our clients,” said Greenwald, a process that he noted includes being active in the lateral market.
In New York, the firm added former Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft finance partner Adam Summers, while also welcoming ex-Davis Polk & Wardwell counsel Meredith Mackey as a capital markets partner and adding former Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld investment management partner Jeremy Berry. Fried Frank also hired former D.E. Shaw Investments LP general counsel John Liftin as senior counsel and ex-Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Brian Margolis as special counsel for its corporate department in New York.
Greenwald said that Fried Frank is still looking to grow its litigation practice, which last year recruited Matthew Parrott, the former head of Katten Muchin Rosenman’s New York real estate and distressed debt litigation group.
Fried Frank also advised on several high-profile deals in 2017. The firm served as outside counsel to Coach Inc. on its $2.4 billion acquisition of fashion rival Kate Spade & Co. Fried Frank also advised Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. on its pending $6.6 billion acquisition of Tribune Media Co., one of the largest television station operators in the country. (Sinclair has recently been criticized for allegedly introducing political bias to some of its local news anchors.)
Fried Frank also counseled JPMorgan Chase & Co. in connection with its planned headquarters redevelopment at New York’s 270 Park Avenue, the first major project under midtown Manhattan’s rezoning plan.
As for 2018, Greenwald said the firm is focused on continuing to perform, but declined to discuss whether Fried Frank would entertain potential tie-up talks with other firms.
“We’ve had three great years in a row [and] that puts some pressure on us to continue performing,” Greenwald said.
He added that Fried Frank, which shuttered its operations in Asia three years ago, remains well-positioned to serve its clients in the coming year, especially given the current strength of markets in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
“I’m bullish on 2018,” he said.