US firms report strong 2005 with London branches pulling ahead

The first crop of year-end results from US firms confirm that 2005 has proved to be a good year for most firms, both in London and globally, despite a slow first quarter.

Shearman & Sterling bucked that trend with zero profit growth in London. However, global profit per equity partner (PEP) rose 20 per cent, from last year’s £650,000 to £785,000. The global figure still lags behind London, however, which remains at £950,000.

A Shearman source said London had enjoyed three years of rapid growth, but that 2005 had been “a consolidation year”. Managing partner Kenneth MacRitchie added that there had been “a return to the string of huge US M&A deals” towards the end of the year and that the eventually strong year was “all the more surprising” because of the slow start. Shearman’s global revenue rose to $830m (£472m), up 7 per cent from $775m (£429.4m), while the London revenue rose by 5 per cent.

St Louis-based Bryan Cave posted a 15 per cent profit increase on last year, taking average PEP to $615,000 (£349,800), which was approximately where it was at in 2003. Chairman Don Lents said the performance was the result of higher demand for its services across the board and better expense control and pricing.

Bingham McCutchen posted a revenue for the whole firm of $593m (£337.3m) for 2005 and an average profit of $1.2m (£680,000), a rise of 5 per cent in both cases. In London, however, average profit beat the global average by almost 30 per cent, with a PEP of $1.6m (£910,000). London’s revenue stands at $23.5m (£13.4m).

Washington DC-based Hogan & Hartson saw revenue and PEP both rise by around 10 per cent to $690m (£394.2m) and $900,000 (£511,900) respectively.

Reed Smith posted a 12 per cent increase in firmwide revenue to $563m (£319m), while its two UK offices, London and Coventry, saw 15 per cent growth to reach $41.7m (£23.6m). This is the second consecutive year that growth in Reed Smith UK has outstripped the firm’s overall performance.

Elsewhere, Boston IP litigators Fish & Richardson’s revenue reached $246m (£139.9m) and PEP hit $902,000 (£513,000), while Chicago-based litigation giant Jenner & Block’s revenue rose 14 per cent to $288.7m (£164.2m).