Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher posted its 22nd straight year of revenue growth, earning more than $1.64 billion in 2017, while the firm’s net income also passed the $1 billion mark for the first time, according to preliminary ALM reporting.
Profits per equity partner, however, took a slight dip to $3.24 million as Gibson Dunn added a Houston office, expanded internationally and increased its head count.
Looking back over the firm’s financial year, Gibson Dunn chairman and managing partner Kenneth Doran described the results as positive. He explained that 2017 was a year of investment for the firm—among other developments, Gibson Dunn opened and staffed up an office in Houston to help strengthen the firm’s energy and oil and gas presence, and recruited some 29 lateral partners across the globe—the highest number ever, according to Doran.
Despite heavy investments, Doran noted that Gibson Dunn continued a consecutive run of financial growth that stretches back more than two decades. In 2017, the firm had a gross revenue of $1.643 billion, up 2.3 percent compared with the prior year, and a net income of $1.013 billion, a 3.6 percent uptick compared with 2016. That marks 22 straight years of revenue growth and 21 straight years of net income growth, according to the managing partner.
“All of that is against a backdrop of significant investment for the long-term,” said Doran. “We will be harvesting these investments this year, and the years ahead.”
Gibson Dunn’s profits per equity partner dipped by 1.1 percent, dropping to $3.24 million in 2017 compared with $3.275 million in 2016. That came as the firm’s number of equity partners grew by 14 to 313 in 2017, a 4.7 percent increase compared with the prior year. In all, Gibson Dunn had 359 partners in 2017. Revenue per lawyer at the 1,275-lawyer firm also experienced a slight drop of 0.6 percent, coming in at $1.288 million in 2017.
Doran acknowledged the slight decline in the partner profits metric, but also said that the actual take-home compensation for Gibson Dunn partners in 2017 still increased to a record high.
“From my perspective, 2017 was a very strong year,” he said.
A little more than half of Gibson Dunn’s revenue stemmed from litigation and investigation matters, while slightly less than half came from transactional work, according to Doran. That breakdown has remained roughly the same for several years, he added.
On the litigation front, Gibson Dunn represented Lynn Tilton—the so-called “diva of distressed debt” and head of private equity firm Patriarch Partners—in a fraud case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, securing a full defense verdict for Tilton in September after a three-week trial. The firm also represented BNSF Railway Co. at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that dealt with closely watched questions about judicial forum-shopping and, ultimately, led the high court to lay out new limits on the number of jurisdictions in which a national corporation can be sued.
Gibson Dunn’s transactional lawyers also remained busy in 2017, said Doran. Among other highlights, the firm represented BWAY Corp., a subsidiary of Stone Canyon Industries, in a $2.3 billion acquisition of the Mauser Group, a supplier of industrial packaging products. Gibson Dunn also counseled Lazard as financial adviser to Johnson & Johnson in its $30 billion acquisition of Swiss rare drugmaker Actelion Ltd..
As Doran noted, the firm had an active year in the realm of lateral hiring, attracting top-flight lawyers such as Nicole Saharsky, who served as an assistant U.S. solicitor general and had argued some 29 Supreme Court cases when news broke in November about her joining the firm as partner and co-chair of Gibson Dunn’s appellate and constitutional law practice. The firm in February announced its plans to open in Houston, later revealing that it had recruited a group of former Baker Botts energy partners to the new Texas outpost.
Outside the United States, the firm added a litigation team in Paris, bringing in a group of partners from Ashurst to launch that group. That move came 50 years into the existence of Gibson Dunn’s Paris outpost, which first opened in 1967. Gibson Dunn also grew in London in 2017, adding Sacha Harber-Kelly, who joined as a partner after departing the anti-corruption and bribery division of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office. And the firm expanded in Hong Kong with the addition of a team led by Paul Boltz Jr., who had previously been managing partner of Ropes & Gray’s office in Hong Kong.
Those growth efforts, said Doran, were aimed at broadening the offerings in some of its international offices. In Paris, for instance, that meant adding dispute resolution expertise to existing strengths in areas such as cross-border transactions, he added.
“It gave us the ability to add depth and strength to new practice areas,” Doran said. “It’s [about] trying to round out the practice and remain highly relevant for our clients.”
The American Lawyer magazine will release its full report on the Am Law 100 in its May issue.