​Dechert targets Asia growth as global revenue hits $777m

Dechert is targeting growth in Asia following what chief executive officer Daniel O’Donnell described as “a year of consolidation” in 2013.

O’Donnell’s comments came as Dechert posted a firm-wide revenue of $777.2m for the 2013 financial year, a rise of 6.6 per cent on 2012.

Average profit per equity partner rose by 2.4 per cent to $2.15m while average profit per all partners stood at $1.49m, a rise of 2.1 per cent.

Total equity partner remuneration was $350.6m, giving Dechert a profit margin of 45 per cent. Revenue per lawyer in 2013 was $919,760.

“We’ll have more focus on growth in 2014, which will primarily mean building out practice areas,” O’Donnell said. “As a firm we tend to focus on practices rather than geographies but if I had to pick one place in the world where you’re likely to see growth this year I’d say Asia.”

Dechert’s CEO said that as well as Asia the firm would be looking for a steady build-out in the Chicago and Los Angeles offices it opened in 2012.

The move to build in Asia, however, follows a reduction in revenue from the region last year, which contrasted with continued growth in Europe, most notably in London. O’Donnell conceded that the firm’s practice had not grown in Asia in 2013, adding, ”if anything we shrunk”, and also admitted the firm’s Moscow office had found the going tough during what had been ”a brutally difficult year” for anybody doing business in Russia.

“Given the conditions I think we did better than most,” added O’Donnell. “We have a long-term commitment to Russia and you ride those things. But 2013 was not a good year to be doing business in Russia.”

Twenty-five per cent of Dechert’s revenue was derived from Europe last year, with the majority of that coming from the firm’s 38-partner, 116-lawyer London office following a string of hires in 2011 and 2012.

Last year The Lawyer reported that Dechert’s London office had posted a 44 per cent increase in revenue following a year characterised by aggressive hiring across the City (5 February 2013).

On the operational side O’Donnell said Dechert has managed to keep its operating expenses flat despite increasing headcount by 5 per cent from 803 lawyers to 845.

“We’re in 26 locations so some of this has to do with the way your lease cycle plans out, things like rent-free periods,” added O’Donnell. “But we’ve been very careful. And our overall margin increased. But yes, the salary bill went up – you still have to pay people.”

Firm-wide Dechert’s practice was dominated by corporate last year, which contributed 50 per cent of revenue with litigation (including IP) chipping in 40 per cent.