Litigation powerhouse Shook Hardy & Bacon has a very simple strategy.
“We plan to stick to our knitting,” says the firm’s chairman John Murphy. “Around 90 per cent of our work is complex litigation; that’s what we’re known for and that’s what we intend to concentrate on in the future.”
So far that strategy has been good for the firm. Last year’s $246m (£130.3m) turnover looks set to be bettered in 2006, a good result in a year dominated by high-value M&A and private equity deals.
Shook Hardy is well over 100 years old and during its long history has consistently represented companies from across industry – be they pharmaceutical, telecommunications or tobacco – on their legal battles.
For example, the firm is currently involved in the tobacco industry’s $200bn (£105.94bn) class action battle over the comparative dangers of ‘light’ or ‘low-tar’ cigarettes.
Such fights for Shook Hardy are numerous and by no means limited to the US. Murphy has claimed that it is “only a matter of time” before American-style litigation takes off in China and India. Consequently, the firm has been busy positioning itself to capitalise on these nascent markets when they come to fruition.
But rather than launch its own office in one of China’s key cities and attempt to build a costly practice of its own, the firm decided last year to take a road that would give it immediate access to one of the largest sources of potential clients in the country.
“We have had an informal alliance with King & Wood [China’s largest law firm] for about a year,” says Murphy. “It’s free to work with other firms in the US and vice versa, but the association with King & Wood gives us instant credibility, instant critical mass and instant access to a client list that would have taken us a lot longer to establish.”
Shook Hardy’s strategy is relatively rare among US firms in that its main Asian focus is not acting for US companies with needs in China, but local Chinese companies with litigation or product liability needs.
“We feel we’re very well suited to meet these requirements,” says Murphy.
Outside of Asia the firm has also struck informal alliances with firms in Germany, Brazil and Canada. It is also “actively looking” at forming a similar arrangement in South Korea.
Although the firm has an excellent
Turnover: $246m (£130.3m) Chairman: John Murphy Total number of lawyers: 471 Total number of equity partners: 96 Profit per equity partner: $520,000 (£275,430) Main practice areas: Litigation Clients: Kraft Foods, Bank of America Offices: 10 Locations: Geneva, Houston, Kansas City, London, Miami, Orange County, Overland Park, San Francisco, Tampa, Washington DC