Dechert, Quinn and Weil among revenue risers in growth year for US firms

Dechert, Quinn Emanuel Urquart & Sullivan and Weil Gotshal & Manges were among the big risers in revenue terms last year in what was generally a positive period for most US firms in London.

Of The Lawyer’s top 30 international firms in London listing this year, all but seven saw their UK revenues rise in 2012, with 27 firms also featuring in last year’s list. This marks a turnaround in fortunes from 2009, when 21 of the top 30 firms saw year-on-year falls in UK fee income.

The US’s most successful revenue-churners in the UK – Baker & McKenzie ($199.1m), White & Case ($199.1m) and Latham & Watkins ($197.5m) – remained at the top of the table, with Bakers, one of the longest-established US players in the UK market, top of the table for the fourth year running.

Meanwhile, the three new entrants to the top 30 table this year include Quinn ($45.3m), Arnold & Porter ($42.7m) and Ropes & Gray ($40m).

Quinn, which opened the doors on its London office in April 2008, last year posted revenue of $45.3m, an increase of 25 per cent. While still relatively small in the City, the firm’s raid on Herbert Smith Freehills last month secured it the services of senior litigation partner Ted Greeno (27 March 2013) and underlined its continuing ambitions to grow.

Elsewhere, Arnold & Porter re-entered the table with estimated total revenue of $42.7m, a total powered by the Washington, DC-headquartered firm’s focus on regulatory matters, patent litigation for pharmaceutical companies and disputes more generally.

Ropes & Gray, another first timer in The Lawyer’s international top 30, entered with an estimated total revenue of $40m, an increase of 38 per cent. The Boston-headquartered firm’s aggressive recruitment campaign, spearheaded by partners Maurice Allen and Mike Goetz since it launched in the UK in 2009, secured it a berth in the top 30 a year ahead of Quinn.

However, the stand-out winner this year was Dechert. Although the firm did not provide a precise UK revenue figure it did confirm that last year its London office saw a 44 per cent increase in turnover. By The Lawyer’s calculations that would take total revenue from $81.6m to $118m.

Much of that growth is thanks to the steady stream of hires Dechert made during 2011 and 2012. Two years ago the firm appeared to have an exclusive recruitment channel out of DLA Piper as it snared a raft of lawyers including disputes partners Neil Gerrard and Jonathan Pickworth (7 October 2011), and international trade specialist Miriam Gonzalez (25 October 2011).

Weil was another big riser in revenue last year. The firm posted a 21.6 per cent increase in London office revenue for the 2012 financial year, with total lawyer headcount also growing significantly from 89 to 99. It is another US firm that over the past 12 months has looked to build out its platform via lateral hires. New partner hires in 2012 included Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer high-yield head Gil Strauss (7 December 2012) and Alex Wood (23 July 2012), a restructuring partner who joined from Hogan Lovells last summer.

Weil’s arch rival in areas such as private equity and restructuring, Kirkland & Ellis, also saw a double-digit revenue increase in London last year, with turnover rising 10 per cent from $112m to $122.8m.

Meanwhile, this year’s biggest fallers in UK estimated revenue include WilmerHale ($45.9m), Mayer Brown ($145m) and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher ($61.3m), with the latter seeing an estimated 11 per cent decrease despite the firm posting a double-digit rise in turnover globally. As The Lawyer reported earlier this year (14 March 2013), the co-partner in charge of Gibson Dunn’s London office Tom Budd said the fall could be explained by the firm’s heavy use of contract lawyers and paralegals on major litigation matters such as the investigation into Libor, in which a team led by City disputes head Philip Rocher represented UBS.

Read more in this week’s feature