Silicon Valley profits soar despite technology slump

Silicon Valley law firms made record profits last year despite enormous salary increases and a downturn in the technology market.

A survey in Californian legal newspaper The Recorder shows that the Bay Area’s top 10 firms had a combined revenue of more than $3bn (£2bn) in 2000, an $800m (£540m) increase on 1999.

US firms record their finances on a calendar-year basis, so figures for the whole of 2000 are just beginning to emerge.

San Francisco firm Brobeck Phleger & Harrison takes the top spot for the Bay Area from rival Morrison & Foerster (MoFo), recording revenues of $476m (£320m) against MoFo’s $437m (£293m). And Brobeck becomes the first firm in the region to reach profits per partner of more than $1m, with the average partner taking home $1.17m (£800,000).

MoFo’s revenues are up 36 per cent on last year, and profits per partner of $665,000 (£450,000) are up 10 per cent on 1999. The firm is the first in the Bay Area to employ more than 1,000 lawyers, and last year started an expansion programme at its London office.

Firms in the Valley have capitalised on the consolidation which has swept the technology sector since its downturn. There have been more mergers and acquisitions and a greater need to help companies find new ways to finance their businesses.

Brobeck chairman Tower Snow says that the firm did see a slowdown in corporate work in the fourth quarter of the year 2000, but that other areas are performing well. Revenues are up 52 per cent on the year before and profits were up by around 40 per cent.

He says: “Initial public offerings are down, but everything else has been up since the Nasdaq fell in April, so it’s a record year for the firm. We probably have the steepest ramp of any firm in the US in terms of our revenue and profit growth.”