One of the founding partners of US litigation boutique Quinn Emanuel popped in to the London office last week as the firm unveiled its 2009 financial results.
John Quinn, who tends to spend the majority of his time on the US West Coast, was well wrapped up against a February winter in the UK. His firm’s financial results caught a slight cold in 2009, but with partner profits still averaging above $3m (£1.88m), the tanned Quinn did not look too concerned.
“We had a slow patch at the start of 2009, which was a hangover from having 11 cases all go to trial at the same time in 2008,” he says. “When they ended there was something of a lag until work picked up in the second quarter of 2009.”
Those cases included the battle between Mattel and MGA Entertainment over the Bratz dolls; the three-year dispute between Qualcomm and Nokia; and the heavyweight battle between Parmalat and Citibank.
Ultimately Quinn Emanuel posted a 5 per cent fall in revenue, from $441.8m to $420m, and a 6 per cent drop in average profit per equity partner, from $3.3m to $3.1m.
Things have picked up since then, and Quinn now plans growth in London.
“We know we’re not big enough in London to achieve what we want, but we won’t be looking to grow for growth’s sake,” stresses Quinn.
That said, he does not rule out a doubling or even tripling of size in the City.
So far the firm’s model of taking an adverse position against the banks has proved successful in the UK.
Most larger firms, with the exception of a handful, including Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, refuse to handle ’bank on bank’ litigation, as it risks doing significant damage to the hand that feeds their non-contentious transactional lines.
Quinn Emanuel, though, is happy to plug the gap, with many large firms, including Kirkland & Ellis, the former home of London-based Quinn Emanuel partner Richard East, happy to refer work to the US litigation powerhouse.
For that to continue, do not expect to see any expansion take Quinn Emanuel too far into practice areas that might impinge on any of its best referral buddies.