Baker aims to be shaker in Big Apple

Is there no end to the litany of firms chasing “significant” growth in New York? The latest culprit? Baker & McKenzie.

Last month, Bakers held its annual partnership conference in London, a recognition of the fact that the city is now home to the super-global firm’s largest office.

Yesterday, members of the firm’s Manhattan management, including the eminently charming but curiously named Clyde ‘Skip’ Rankin and Charles ‘Chuck’ Niemeth told me (Matt ‘Hurl’ Byrne) that next year’s annual conference will be in New York.

“Yes, it’s symbolic,” Chuck told me. “It shows that the principal focus of the firm is now on New York.”

Now New York has never been a major outpost for Bakers, a firm originally founded and headquartered in Chicago. Three years ago it only had around 50 lawyers in Manhattan.

That, of course, changed on 1 January last year, when the firm finally digested the chunk of the former Coudert Brothers it took in New York after the latter firm collapsed. At the same time Bakers made another symbolic move, to the old Coudert offices overlooking picturesque Bryant Park.

“That deal gave Baker & McKenzie the boost in New York it was looking for,” says Rankin, a former Coudert big wig.

“It jump-started Bakers’ office here. Now the goal is to make New York the largest office in the US.”

There’s some serious way to go to achieve that goal, with Chicago more than double the size of New York. But last year’s Coudert joiners also provided a generous helping of corporate lawyers to Bakers formerly weak New York offering in that area. According to Rankin and Niemeth, corporate will be the engine that drives Bakers’ future growth in the city.

Bakers has a 30 June year end, so is only a few weeks away from its half-year point on 31 December. New York’s figures are currently on budget and ahead of last year, the pair claim, and with the firm having posted record results last year (including a PEP of above $1m) only a fool would discount the firm’s chances of succeeding in its more ambitious target of building New York.

There are plenty of lawyers out there who might fancy the view over Bryant Park from Bakers’ windows.

Cads: hiring, not firing

Any Cadwalader associates out there can, it seems, rest easy.

The US firm known for having one of the largest structured finance practices in the country is not looking to lay off anybody. Not now, not later.

That, at least, is the story from management committee member and litigation chairman Greg Markel. Last Friday (9 October), as rumours of layoffs continued to reverberate around Manhattan, he maintained that Cadwalader had made no redundancies as a result of the collapsed credit markets and had no plans for any either. In fact, according to Markel, not only is Cads not firing, it’s hiring.

“For several years Cadwalader has been making a real effort to diversify its practices and broaden its scope,” he added.

To that end the firm recently added an antitrust practice, with ex-assistant attorney general for antitrust Rick Rule brought in six months ago. It also effectively launched an IP litigation practice with Chris Hughes from IP boutique Morgan & Finnegan.

“We had one or two IP litigators before Chris arrived but not really a group,” said Markel. “Now we have around 15 lawyers and I can predict that within the next three months there’ll be another 10 to 12 coming in. Chris’s arrival was the catalyst for that growth.”

It appears that Cads places a lot of store in Hughes. According to Markel, it took the firm five years of searching to find the right lawyer to launch the practice. “I can tell you that for a fact,” he added.

So, here’s another ‘fact’ for you. There haven’t been any layoffs at Cads and there aren’t going to be any; Markel says so.

“We have not had any layoffs and we don’t have any plans for layoffs.”

You heard it here first.

To read more of Matt’s ‘Byrne in the USA’ blogs, click here.