MoFo blasts its way to top of Bay Area revenue table

Troubled Brobeck slips into runner-up position; merged Pillsbury Winthrop makes its presence felt

San Francisco-based firm Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) has trumped Bay Area rivals and topped the revenue tables for the region. Collectively, San Francisco's 10 highest-grossing firms billed $3.4bn (£2.37bn) in 2001, up 10 per cent from 2000's $3.1bn (£2.16bn).
MoFo proved resilient to the economic difficulties assailing the technology sector, with revenues growing by 12 per cent to $490m (£341.2m). Its rise to the top has knocked beleaguered competitor Brobeck Phleger & Harrison into second place.
Brobeck's revenue dropped 6 per cent, from $476m (£331.2m) to $447m (£311.2m). Profits per equity partner took a massive hit, down 44 per cent to $660,000 (£459,500). Al-though the profits figure holds up in comparison with other San Francisco firms, it is a far cry from last year's average, which was in excess of $1m (£690,000).
MoFo chairman Keith Wetmore said the firm had witnessed a slump in start-up technology, licensing and corporate work. He argued that its breadth of practice, particularly litigation, had staved off the effects of the downturn.
The merger of the Bay Area's Pillsbury Madison & Sutro and New York's Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts to form Pillsbury Winthrop had an immediate effect on the rankings. The firm surged from sixth to third position in the table, taking in $445m (£309.8m).
Many of the firms to slide down the table were reliant on the technology sector, notably Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Cooley Godward. Despite slipping from second to fourth in terms of turnover, Wilson Sonsini maintained its pre-eminence for profits per equity partner. Turnover dipped 6 per cent to revenues of $425m (£295m), but partners lost only $100,000 (£69,600) from their $930,000 (£647,000) profit share in 2000.
Meanwhile, Cooley Godward squeezed an additional 3 per cent on to its turnover, taking the firm's revenue up to $354m (£246.5m), its equity share tumbled by 21 per cent, from $905,000 (£630,000) to $715,000 (£497,800). Chief operating officer Mark Pitchford said that the imbalance between work coming in and lawyer numbers for much of the year had eaten into the firm's net income. It remedied this in August by culling 86 associates (The Lawyer, 3 September 2001).
Big ticket litigation, life sciences and energy work boosted revenue at Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe and Thelen Reid & Priest. Both firms created double-figure growth in both turnover and profit.

Top 10 highest-grossing Bay Area firms in 2001
2001 Rank Firm Gross revenues
$m (£m)
Net income
$m (£m)
Profits per equity partner
$K (£K)
2000 rank Total lawyers/equity partners/non-equity partners
1 Morrison & Foerster 490 (341) 140 (97) 675 (470) 3 889/207/44
2 Brobeck Phleger & Harrison 447 (311) 108 (75) 660 (459) 1 792/163/47
3 Pillsbury Winthrop 445 (310) 86 (60) 615 (428) 6 733/139/153
4 Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati 425 (296) 117 (81) 830 (578) 2 708/140/0
5 Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe 365 (254) 96 (67) 765 (532) 5 568/126/78
6 Cooley Godward 354 (246) 103 (72) 715 (498) 4 628/144/6
7 Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe 331 (230) 101 (70) 645 (449) 7 500/156/38
8 Gray Cary Ware & Friedenrich 225 (157) 51 (35) 515 (358) 8 448/98/52
9 Thelen Reid & Priest 202 (141) 56 (39) 560 (390) 9 392/100/83
10 Littler Mendelson 153 (106) 47 (33) 350 (244) 380/135/45
 
Figures are rounded to the nearest whole number; profits per partner are rounded to the nearest 5,000 (£3,500).
Source: The Recorder 2002