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A year of two halves for White & Case as City revenue drops after tricky start to 2019

White & Case’s City revenue fell almost 4% over the last financial year following a ‘challenging’ start to 2019, while growth in global turnover also slowed.

London revenue last year dropped to $337m from $350m after a blistering 2018 on the back of a dynamic lateral hiring spree.

Global turnover managed to grow 6.6% to $2.18bn, while profit per equity partner (PEP) was up 8.2% to $2.59m, albeit against a drop of 10 equity partners to 332 worldwide. In 2018, global revenues hiked 13.7% to break the $2bn mark as PEP grew 6% to $2.40m.

‘There was general political and economic uncertainty which affected the market,’ White & Case London executive partner Melissa Butler (pictured) told Legal Business. ‘The M&A market and IPO market was down, but most of those challenges were predominantly in the first half of the year.’

Despite the slowdown, the five-year growth track at the firm makes for impressive reading. Since 2015, revenue per lawyer has increased 24%, PEP 29% and overall revenue a striking 43%. The number of lawyers at the firm has increased 15% in the timeframe to 2,204 across 44 locations.

‘The results since 2015 tell you a lot,’ executive committee member Oliver Brettle told Legal Business. ‘These are very significant increases for a firm as large as ours. In London, we’ve had a 47.5% increase in partners which is another significant increase.’

Both Butler and Brettle are sanguine about the year ahead, with 2020 marking the final year in the firm’s much-touted 2020 strategy to go ‘toe-to-toe’ with the Magic Circle. Butler insists the remainder of 2020 will be ‘all hands on deck’ in the City to realise the strategy, coming off the back of White & Case’s strongest ever January.

While more lateral hires are expected in the coming year in the City, unusually White & Case largely overlooked London in its last partnership promotion round, minting only three in London as part of its largest ever round. New York also received fewer new partners, while 14 were promoted in continental Europe.