Pillsbury financials benefit from revamped hiring strategy

A change of recruitment strategy at ­Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman helped the firm post record profit figures for the 2010 financial year.

Tim Wright
Tim Wright

Last week Pillsbury unveiled figures ­showing that, while total revenue was ­effectively flat at $532m (£333m), average profit per equity partner (PEP) broke through the ­million-dollar mark for the first time to reach $1.05m.

Chairman Jim Rishwain admits that a focus on realigning Pillsbury’s cost structure helped boost PEP despite zero growth in fee income.

He adds that “strategic acquisitions of ­partners and practices” have also contributed to improved performance despite an economy that remains “sluggish and uneven”.

Last year the firm made one of its most ­significant acquisitions when it hired a group of a dozen finance and corporate lawyers from Nixon Peabody, including former head of ­global finance Mats Carlston.

Managing partner of Pillsbury’s London office Tim Wright says this and other moves are the result of the firm “upping its game” on ­lateral recruitment.

“In the US, historically, we hired people in ones and twos,” says Wright. “But around 18 months ago we decided that wasn’t working. With a team you get to critical mass quicker.”

Wright adds that this team-based approach is likely to be replicated in London to help Pillsbury grow its 25-lawyer City office. The US firm has made several hires in recent months, while nuclear projects team head George Borovas relocated from Washington to London last year. However, it is yet to make a market-changing team acquisition in the City.

“We don’t have the critical mass we aspire to in London,” Wright admits. “We’ve been ­working hard for the past couple of years on making bigger acquisitions.”

Topping $1m on PEP may help Pillsbury realise that ambition.