International report: McGuire Woods, US

Managing partner:

William Strickland
Chairman: Robert Burrus
Turnover: $344m (£199.9m)
Total number of fee-earners: 686 lawyers
Total number of partners/equity partners: Approx 350 partners; 185 are equity partners
Main practice areas: Healthcare, energy, M&A, structured finance, labour, banking, tax and employee benefits, litigation
Key clients: Consolidated Natural Gas (CNG), US Airways, Virginia Tobacco Trust, Tyco Electronics
Number of offices: 15
Main location: No headquarters, but two largest offices are in Richmond, Virginia and Chicago, Illinois

McGuire Woods is growing fast and it intends to continue its rapid expansion, with a UK office high on its list of priorities.

The firm’s turnover rose 11.9 per cent last year from $307.5m (£178.7m) to $344m (£199.9m). That increase came on top of a 27.6 per cent hike the previous year. That’s the dull news. Average profit per equity partner shot up an incredible 48.3 per cent from $480,000 (£279,000) to $605,000 (£352,000) last year, and there were no changes to the size of the firm’s 185-strong partnership.

Until recently, the plan was to increase the firm’s presence in the US. In 2003 McGuire Woods completed the largest merger in its history, combining forces with Ross & Hardies, which had offices in Chicago and New York. In 2004, a good deal of time was spent integrating the two offices and focusing on client service.

Strickland said: “This past year, our biggest change is that we now have a major presence in the Midwest, with Chicago being our second largest office in the firm. We have also substantially increased our presence in New York.”

Most recently, McGuire Woods opened an office in Los Angeles at the request of clients. The firm also does significant work across Europe as well as in Kazakhstan.

As far as London is concerned, Strickland says: “We are very interested in a presence if the right opportunity were to present itself. We believe that clients in our financial services practice and capital markets would benefit. As they continue to grow internationally, we plan to expand to meet their legal needs.”

McGuire Woods sees a big opportunity in the increasing demand for alternative billing from clients. Strickland states that more and more clients are asking for the ability to be able to budget in advance for their legal needs, including high-dollar items such as cases involving large litigation. “The legal profession is heading in this direction, but most firms are doing so only when their clients force the issue,” he says.

McGuire Woods is taking a different path, launching an advertising campaign in Chicago promoting alternative pricing arrangements. The firm believes it is well positioned in this area because of its experience in offering a variety of alternative fee structures, as well as the necessary accounting and technology infrastructures which can support such ventures.