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Wake Up Call: Revenues Steady, Profits Down at Two Elite U.K. Firms

July 17, 2020, 12:47 PM

In today’s column, New York canceled its September bar exam and California delayed its online exam yesterday, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt legal education; two former Big Law IP partners who recently started a virtual firm predict the Covid crisis will lead to more “Giglaw” firms like theirs; Attorney General Barr appointed an interim U.S. attorney for Alabama’s Northern District; in a Covid-inspired move, Shearman poached a Weil restructuring partner in London; an EU top court ruling threatens to disrupt transatlantic data transfers by internet giants and other multinationals.

  • Leading off, London elite firms Allen & Overy and Linklaters yesterday both reported global revenues that climbed slightly during their fiscal years that ended April 30, despite Covid-19’s economic onslaught and the effect of Brexit. However, profits per equity partner declined at both firms. Allen & Overy edged past Linklaters for overall revenue for the year. (GlobalLegalPost.com)

  • Allen & Overy said its revenue rose 4% to about $2.14 billion (1.69 billion pounds), but its profits per equity partner slipped 1.7% for the year. The firm’s merger talks with O’Melveny & Myers fell apart in September, while its investments in alternative legal services boosted revenue. All of the firm’s practice areas saw increased revenue, with litigation and real estate standing out as “notable” performers, it said. (BLAW)

  • Linklaters reported global revenues up 0.7% to about $2.05 billion (1.64 billion pounds), while its PEP shrank 5.1% for the fiscal year. The firm cited strong growth in private M&A, debt, leveraged finance, project finance, core commercial disputes, equities, derivatives and structured products. (Legal Business) (The Lawyer)

  • U.K. firm Fieldfisher has revised the terms and format of its 15-year-old partnership agreement, a report says. (The Lawyer)

  • With U.S. Covid-19 cases still hitting new records every day, New York’s Board of Law Examiners yesterday canceled the state’s September in-person bar exam. A working group is said to be considering adding an online exam, a step taken by some other states that have canceled in-person exams. (BLAW) Meanwhile, California’s highest court said it is delaying the state’s online bar exam until October and will allow some law school graduates to practice temporarily before passing the test. (BLAW)

  • Harvard, Duke, and other schools have hired Big Law firms to defend them against a flood of coronavirus-fueled lawsuits, and to help rewrite the rules of campus life. (BLAW)

  • The Covid-19 lockdown has brought losses and complications for lawyers, but also opportunities. (Financial Times)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • The Washington Redskins hired D.C. litigator Beth Wilkinson and her firm, Wilkinson Walsh, to review allegations of misconduct after 15 female ex-employees told the Washington Post they were sexually harassed. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • Two former Big Law intellectual property partners who worked together at Arent Fox, Dentons, and Crowell & Moring have founded a virtual law boutique, Beeman & Muchmore, specializing in software licensing and audit-defense counseling. “The decision to launch Beeman & Muchmore was made before the pandemic, but the rapid acceptance of remote working will help pave the way for more firms such as ours,” they said in an interview. (JD Journal)

  • Omni Bridgeway Limited, the Australia-listed litigation finance firm that merged with IMF Bentham last year, said it invested an unspecified amount in a Japanese company that offers finance service similar to “after-the-event insurance” for clients pursuing legal actions in corporate and other sectors. (OmniBridgeway.com)

  • Loeb & Loeb advised Oprah Winfrey in connection with her investment in Oatly, a Swedish oat milk maker, in which she joined Blackstone Group and other celebrities in the $200 million deal. (Loeb.com)

  • A new Dechert podcast features private equity industry experts looking at current trends and giving a near-term outlook for the sector. (Dechert)

Laterals, Moves

  • Attorney General William Barr named a Washington-based Justice Department official, Prim Escalona, as interim U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. She replaces Jay Town, who left to take a job at a defense contractor. Earlier in her career Escalona worked for Birmingham-based law firm Maynard, Cooper & Gale; and before that was a legislative assistant to then-U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions. (Justice.gov) (Al.com)

  • With Covid-19 pushing companies into bankruptcy, Shearman & Sterling hired financial restructuring and insolvency lawyer Alex Wood as a partner in London. His LinkedIn profile says he arrives from Weil Gotshal & Manges, where he was a partner, and he was earlier a partner at Hogan Lovells. (Shearman.com)

  • Jenner & Block reached into Kilpatrick Townsend to hire an eight-member group that handles Native American law. Last week, Jenner & Block scored a major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court that affirmed tribal sovereignty, The ruling could spur further litigation. (BLAW)

  • A former legal chief at Toys “R” Us and Dow Corning, Cornell Boggs will be joining Quarles & Brady as a senior strategic advisor leading on diversity. (BLAW)

  • Barnes & Thornburg added commercial litigator Joseph A. Matteo, as a partner in New York. According to his LinkedIn, he was previously at Skadden Arps and arrives most recently from Kaplan Rice. (BTLaw.com)

In-house

  • San Diego-based Poseida Therapeutics, Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, hired biotech veteran and IP litigator Harry J. Leonhardt as general counsel and chief compliance officer. He was a senior counsel at Amylin Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2012, and other biopharmaceutical companies. He arrives most recently from Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc., where he was top lawyer. (PRNewswire.com)

Technology

  • The EU top court’s recent ruling voiding a key method used by companies to transfer data across the Atlantic mainly targets internet giants including Facebook and Google, but it could also cause problems for Wall Street firms that transfer data. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • A global consultation on the ethics of artificial intelligence was launched this week by the Paris-based United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. A consultation group is supposed to submit a first draft recommendation on AI ethics to Unesco member states for adoption in November 2021. (Unesco.org)

Legal Education

  • Weeks after getting fired by President Trump, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of in New York Geoff Berman is going to teach a course at Stanford Law this fall. (The Recorder)

Connect with the Bloomberg Law team at our virtual AALL experience July 13-24 and discover the latest updates including our expanded news channels with a focus on business & practice, in-house counsel, coronavirus, PFAS, cannabis industry law, insurance law, private equity, and social justice. Learn More

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at rMitchell@correspondent.bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Darren Bowman at dbowman@bloomberglaw.com