Jack Sheridan, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Partner (Jason Doiy / The Recorder)
SAN FRANCISCO — After straying in 2012, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has rejoined the Valley pack, posting solid gains in revenue and profitability metrics.
Like tech-focused peers Cooley and Fenwick & West, Wilson capitalized on the continuing boom in 2013, boosting revenue 6.7 percent, and revenue per lawyer 3.9 percent to $925,000. Even so, that figure is below the $930,000 it hit in 2011. Meanwhile, both Fenwick and Cooley have over the past five years gained on and then passed Wilson on that measure of financial health.
The firm’s bottom line showed improvement, too, with net income jumping 12 percent. The firm’s partner count grew 3.5 percent. But even with more mouths to feed, the average partner paycheck soared 6.9 percent to $1,445,000—besting Cooley at roughly $1.3 million and Fenwick at nearly $1.2 million.
Contrast that with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, where revenue was flat and partner pay only grew because the firm shed 10 percent of its partners. As California firms continue reporting their 2013 financial results, there’s a stark gap between Valley-centric firms and those serving clients in more traditional industries.
Wilson Sonsini’s leaders said they couldn’t point to one practice area that powered performance in 2013.
“We were gratified by the fact that the growth was spread across the entire platform,” said partner John “Jack” Sheridan, who manages the firm with partner Douglas Clark.
In 2012, by contrast, the troubled capital markets probably hurt some of the firm’s corporate practices. “On balance, Wilson does more large-cap and midcap public company work than either Fenwick or Cooley,” said law firm consultant Peter Zeughauser.
Wilson weathered a 2 percent dip in gross revenue in 2012 and saw profits per partner slide 7 percent. The firm regained that ground in 2013.
Sheridan pointed out that the firm made some big investments in 2012, including opening offices in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood and in Beijing, and supporting outposts in Delaware, Brussels and Hong Kong that opened previously.
Now those offices are paying off, Sheridan said. “With those types of investments, it takes a year or so for everything to start firing on all cylinders,” he said.
Wilson made some new investments in 2013, too, including opening an L.A. office last April with four intellectual property litigators from Sidley Austin. Nine attorneys have since joined the ranks.
Wilson Sonsini had a hand in more than 20 initial public offerings, including Twitter’s $1.8 billion IPO and FireEye’s $303.5 million IPO. On the corporate front, the firm represented Giant Interactive Investors in a proposed $2.68 billion going-private transaction, Salesforce.com in its $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget, and Expedia in its $632 million acquisition of trivago.
Some practices got a boost from the improving economy and the robust startup environment, but Sheridan said the healthy results go beyond those factors.
“Litigation, antitrust, much of the IP practices had good years, just because they had good years, not because of the market conditions, not because of a periodic uptick,” said Sheridan.
The firm’s litigators helped close a two-year Federal Trade Commission investigation on Google’s search services, defended Netflix against a proposed U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement action, and defended Google and YouTube in a landmark copyright infringement lawsuit brought by television giant Viacom.
“We ended the year on a strong note,” said Clark. “And we’re continuing to feel the winds at our back.”
Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.