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Debevoise to Launch in San Francisco As Law Firms Look West (1)

March 10, 2021, 8:28 PM; Updated: March 11, 2021, 12:01 AM

Debevoise & Plimpton is set to open an office in San Francisco as Northern California remains a key expansion target for Big Law firms founded outside the region now looking to cash in on tech-related work.

New York-founded Debevoise will relocate 14 of its attorneys to its new office in California, which will be its third stateside and tenth globally. The firm said in a Wednesday announcement the outpost will open in the second half of 2021 and focus on white collar and regulatory defense, mergers and acquisitions, private equity fund formation, data strategy and security, and intellectual property litigation.

Co-chair of Debevoise’s M&A group Michael Diz and litigation partner David Sarratt will be co-managing partners of the office, which will include intellectual property litigation group chair David Bernstein. Partners Andrew Ahern and Julie Riewe will also help lead the new office.

Revenue from the firm’s California-based clients has been increasing at double-digit percentages each year for several years now, and grew even higher in 2020, according to Debevoise presiding partner Michael Blair.

“It’s really the steady and significant growth in client base in Northern California and the appetite that many of those clients articulated to us for us to be out there,” Blair said of the decision to open in an interview with Bloomberg Law.

The new office will serve the firm’s West Coast clients, which include Lightspeed Venture Partners, PayPal Holdings Inc., Ripple Labs Inc., Robinhood Markets, TPG, and Twitter Inc.

The new office will be located in the city’s Financial District. Though the firm made the “purposeful” decision to open an office with existing Debevoise lawyers, it does expect over time to add new lawyers in the San Francisco area.

The firm saw a 16.7% increase in gross revenue in 2020, bringing in $1.22 billion, according to figures published by the American Lawyer. It also saw its profits per equity partner increase to $4.55 million last year from $3.7 million in 2019.

Competition for top talent in the Bay Area is fierce, especially as new entrants into the market like Freshfields Bruckhaus & Deringer and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison have poached top talent to form offices in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, respectively.

“We fully recognize that the Northern California market is a very competitive market with some very strong firms and practitioners,” said Blair.

“We’re not trying to be a full-service firm in San Francisco,” he added. “We’re planning to offer some capabilities where we think we have distinctive strengths and where the clients we consulted with indicated that they would have an interest.”

(Clarifies revenue numbers in paragraphs four and eight.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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