To keep our finger on the pulse of the global legal economy, Big Law Business checked in this week with Paul Rawlinson, the chair of Baker McKenzie, whose firm just announced its financial results from fiscal year 2017.
Notwithstanding world events that fueled uncertainty — such as Brexit and the election of President Trump — Rawlinson said the firm’s business remained on-the-up, at least in part because of cross-border legal work.
“We obviously saw some IPO deals that were put on hold because of Brexit and a certain amount of M&A activity didn’t take place, but it was more than compensated for by cross-border clients and [large corporations] who are investing outside of the U.K. as a hedge for Brexit,” said Rawlinson.
Baker McKenzie announced firm revenues were up five percent compared to the previous year, posting $2.6 billion, with nearly 1,600 partners as of July 1. Profits per equity partner was up slightly at $1.3 million, more than last year’s $1.1 million.
Of all sectors that Rawlinson saw to be strengths, driving firm business, he pointed to Baker McKenzie’s technology, media and telecom industry focus as one prime example, with work in mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, tax and supply chain issues.
That is “probably closely followed by good activity in healthcare and [the] consumer goods sector and financial institutions,” he said. “For us, EMI [or energy, mining and infrastructure] is beginning to come back but that’s a story to watch for next year.”
Among the top matters Baker advised on were its representations of:
• Yum! Brands, Inc. on the corporate implementation of the $9.7 billion global restructuring related to the spin-off of its Chinese restaurant operations.
• Digital technology company Konica Minolta on its acquisition of Ambry Genetics Corporation, a leading diagnostic solutions provider for hereditary conditions, for up to $1 billion.
• Siemens on a multimillion-dollar loan to Stoneway Capital Corporation, as part of a $500 million financing for a thermal power project in Buenos Aires – which included the first use of project bonds in Argentina in 25 years.
Rawlinson spoke with Big Law Business in a phone interview on Monday prior to the release of Baker McKenzie’s financial data, a tradition the firm has kept over the years with journalists.
Looking to the future, Rawlinson said to expect additional growth: both in terms of headcount and revenue.
Already in June, Baker McKenzie announced the election of 80 new partners and it also hired 59 partners from other firms over the past year. At the same time, the firm increased total billable hours by three percent year-on-year to 8.4 million, the firm said.
“We are always looking for strategic positioning,” said Rawlinson, pointing to London and China as areas of focus where the firm would like to bulk up and is eyeing laterals and teams.
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