Legal Business Blogs

Cadwalader London revenue down again despite strong global performance

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft has seen its London revenue drop for the second year in a row, falling 4% to $41.3 in 2019.

Following a 13% fall to $43.1m in 2018, the figure is a far cry from the $50m it recorded in 2017 and comes despite the firm posting a solid 9% global revenue growth to $459m.

The firm’s financials announced today (12 February) also show global profits per equity partner at the New York-bred firm rose 11% to hit $3m and revenue per lawyer 7% to $1.2m. The results come as the firm added three to its equity partner ranks to 46 and its lawyer headcount rose 2% to 382.

A second year of global turnover growth following the 3% rise in 2018 will be welcomed as good news for a firm that saw its revenue fall for three consecutive years between 2015 and 2017.

As part of its refocused strategy targeting its core client base of financial institutions, large corporates and funds, the firm cut 15% of its legal workforce in 2017 and has closed a number of its offices over the last few years. In 2018 it shut its Brussels outpost, following the withdrawal from Hong Kong and Beijing in 2016 and leaving London as the firm’s only office outside the US.

But its City outpost, which had outperformed the firm’s global business in previous years by growing its revenue fivefold in the five years to 2017, has recently been hit by a number of departures in its restructuring practice. They included well-regarded Yushan Ng, who at the beginning of 2018 quit for Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

Speaking to Legal Business last year, London head Greg Petrick said the firm had ‘the right strategy’ and was ‘in an aggressive growth mode’, adding that the London office was ‘right at the centre’ of that strategy.

The City base will in the next few months move to new premises at 100 Bishopsgate, with space for up to 150 lawyers: almost double its headcount, which at the beginning of last year stood at 60.

Cadwalader’s financials come after US disputes heavyweight Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan yesterday posted an impressive 20% growth in its City turnover, breaking the £100m barrier.

Cadwalader has also had to deal with a claim for indirect sex discrimination brought by a female associate in its London office.

Ana Maria Knott brought a claim in the UK employment tribunal concerning the firm’s policy of not reducing its billable hours target for bonuses to reflect time spent on holiday.

The tribunal agreed that Cadwalader’s policy put women at a disadvantage but Judge Isaacson dismissed the case, saying that the claimant had a choice between ‘taking very generous holiday leave or working more to improve her chance of obtaining the bonus’.

Knot returned from maternity leave in 2018 and was entitled to seven days of statutory minimum leave during the remaining 16 weeks of the year, but the firm did not reduce the bonus target of 8.6 billable hours per day to reflect time spent on holiday.