Wake Up Call: Willkie Triples Billion-Dollar Deals in 2020

March 10, 2021, 1:12 PM

In today’s column, global firm Herbert Smith Freehills named its first female chair; after cost cuts helped several Big Law firms notch huge profits despite the pandemic last year, some firms want to make some of those cuts permanent; in a new report ranking law schools by their “excess whiteness,” University of Georgia’s School of Law is the “whitest.”

  • Leading off, Willkie Farr & Gallagher’s gross revenues reached $986 million in 2020, up 13.6% from 2019, as the firm tripled, year on year, the number of billion-dollar deals it advised on, a report says. Willkie’s profits per equity partner increased 10.9% to $3.516 million, even as the firm avoided layoffs, furloughs, or paycuts during the pandemic-affected year. The firm’s M&A and private equity practices rebounded in the year’s second half, while its core asset management and bankruptcy practice stayed strong all year. (American Lawyer)
  • Exceptional cost cuts during the pandemic allowed several major law firms to post big profits for 2020, even as revenue growth took a hit at some. Now, some firms say they want to make some of those Covid-year savings-permanent, a report says. (American Lawyer)
  • Dentons, the world’s biggest law firm by head count, said its adding over 30 lawyers including eight partners by combining with Ecuadorian firm Paz Horowitz Abogados in the country’s capital, Quito. Dentons says it now has 198 locations across 75 countries worldwide, including 26 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Dentons.com)
  • Hogan Lovells is the latest Big Law firm to announce it’s opening an office in Dublin, Ireland, in response to the U.K.’s exit from the European Union. U.K firm Ashurst opened one earlier in March, while Linklaters is in negotiations to open an office in Dublin, which would make it the first so-called elite magic circle firm to make the move. (Global Legal Post)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Herbert Smith Freehills, a 2,800-lawyer firm formed from a merger of U.K.-based Herbert Smith and Australian firm Freehills in 2012, appointed Australia-based corporate lawyer Rebecca Maslen-Stannage to be senior partner and its first female chair effective May 1. The firm also said it plans to pay a one-off bonus of 5% of salary to staff for their efforts during the pandemic. (Financial Times)
  • Another New York-based firm Shearman & Sterling, also says it avoided layoffs or furloughs in 2020, but its gross revenues sank 11.1%, to $861 million, while PEP plunged 22.9% to $1.897 million, dragged down by the hit its transactional and energy sector work took in the early months of the pandemic. The firm suffered some high profile partner exits last year, but it said it’s optimistic for 2021, citing high year-end inventory and strong disputes and transactional practices. (American Lawyer)
  • After two down months early in the pandemic last year, Kansas City, Mo.-founded Polsinelli’s health care and labor and employment practices rebounded to help push the firm to $618.3 million in gross revenues, up 6.5% compared with 2019, and $1.1 million in PEP, a 16.7% jump. The firm also cites a rebound in its private equity, financial services, and real estate practices later in the year. The firm made some cost cuts, re-negotiated leases during the year, and it reduced partner draws and delayed profit sharing early on but made those up by year-end. It also avoided layoffs, this report says. (American Lawyer)
  • Lawyers who negotiated a $641 million settlement for victims of Flint’s lead-contaminated water are asking a judge to give them as much as one third of that for fees and expenses for years of work on the case. (ABC News)

Laterals, Moves, In-house

  • Former Hunton Andrews Kurth real estate partner Michael Boyd, after over three decades at the firm in Houston, took a new job as general counsel of San Antonio-based USAA Real Estate. (Yahoo!Finance)

Legal Education

  • A new report, “2021 The Whitest Law School Rankings,” purports to rank law schools by order their “excess whiteness” measured against the Law School Admission Council applicant pool. It’s by a University of Dayton School of Law professor emerita. (Above the Law)

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

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