Shearman – bitter, not sweet??

Shearman - bitter, not sweet??
Shearman, oh Shearman. Whatever happened to this venerable Wall Street giant? If you buy the line of the firm’s senior partner of three years Rohan Weerasinghe, the answer is “nothing”.

Nothing, other than the continual following of the firm’s strategy, which is curiously akin to most other global firms’ strategies – handling the highest-profile and most significant multijurisdictional matters for the largest businesses in the world.

Today (12 May) The Lawyer publishes the Transatlantic Elite – the first in-depth analysis of the top firms active along the London-New York axis.

We argue that there are 16 firms currently making the grade in terms of pools of talent, quality of client base and international coverage. These firms make up the ‘Sweet Sixteen’.

Shearman is not one of them. Its not-so revolutionary strategy may have steered it to a double-digit rise in average profit per equity partner (PEP) last year, to $1.8m (£920,246), but it failed to secure a place among the world’s elite. Why else would a succession of partners have deserted it and its once market-leading (for a US firm) German office have splintered so dramatically?The story of Shearman is one of missed opportunities and squandered leads. In the words of Jomati consultant and former Clifford Chance managing partner Tony Williams, it’s “a tragedy”.

Shearman has been at best marking time, at worst going backwards. Yes, PEP has recovered, but it is still a way off the pace of the firms it continues to believe it competes against.

If you need more proof that the firm has slipped, look at the five-year graphic (page 19) charting Shearman’s PEP against those of the magic circle and the US firms in our inaugural Sweet Sixteen.

Weerasinghe’s claims that all is well at Shearman are, frankly, not convincing. But don’t take our word for it. Read his comments for yourself on page 18.