Baker & McKenzie has retained its position as the world’s largest law firm by revenue after posting record billings for the fiscal year ended June 30. Baker’s gross revenue inched up 2 percent over the past 12 months to a new high of $2.313 billion, the firm announced Tuesday, extending its lead over second-placed DLA Piper to $66 million. (The results are for different time frames, since DLA operates under a calendar fiscal year.)
Baker’s profit per partner fell 9 percent to a three-year low of $1.09 million, however, with the firm’s profit margin dropping 4 percentage points to 34 percent.
Baker’s global chairman Eduardo Leite said in a statement that the results reflected a recommencement of investments that were deferred during the economic crisis, and the “challenging circumstances confronting our clients in an uncertain global economy.”
With revenue flat across North America and Europe, the firm’s modest topline growth was almost entirely driven by international markets. Baker saw double-digit gains in Latin America and also saw returns in Asia, but billings remained static in the Middle East and Africa.
“Matching our legal talent and services with the needs and demands of our global clients has never been more important,” Leite added. “That’s why we continue to build our global platform for the long term in new markets and through strategic lateral hiring.”
Already one of the world’s most global law firms, Baker has over the past 12 months continued to expand its extensive international network. This summer, the firm became the latest Global 100 member to be attracted by Africa’s fast-growing economy, adding to its existing regional presence — it has operated a practice in Egypt since 1985 — with the launch of new offices in both South Africa and Morocco.
Baker’s Johannesburg base opened in June with the hire of a 31-lawyer team from the now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf. Wildu du Plessis, who joined Baker alongside fellow office co–managing partner Morne van der Merwe and six other partners, said that the specialist energy, mining and projects group was approached by several firms, but that Baker’s “unmatched global platform” clinched the deal.
Baker now has 71 offices in 44 countries, following its Morocco move — second only to DLA, with 77 offices. Baker’s new Casablanca outpost is headed by Kamal Nasrollah, formerly a corporate partner with Paris-based August & Debouzy. Nasrollah joined August & Debouzy nine years ago from Sullivan & Cromwell and established the French firm’s Morocco practice in 2007.
Baker’s Europe, Middle East and Africa chair Koen Vanhaerents said the firm is now looking at Maghreb — a region of Northwest Africa that includes Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia — to further expand its coverage of the continent.
“It’s very early days, and still not an obvious market to invest bullishly in, but getting to know your way around is a very wise move,” Vanhaerents said at the time. “We expect the continent will finally awaken soon. We want to be sure we are ready when it does.”
Baker also recently became the first international firm to establish a local Myanmar law capability in its Bangkok office, bringing in counsel Saw Yu Win from Yangon-based Myanmar Thanlwin Legal Services earlier this month.
The 2012 Global 100 survey is set to be published in the October issue of Legal affiliate The American Lawyer.
Chris Johnson is a reporter for The American Lawyer, a Legal affiliate based in New York. This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily at www.americanlawyer.com.