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‘Clients want to come to the best’: Quinn Emanuel breaks $2bn barrier with 26% revenue jump

Quinn Emanuel today announced its firmwide financial results for calendar year 2023, with the litigation powerhouse joining an elite band of firms to notch revenue over $2bn, with a 26% jump taking it from $1.65bn last year to $2.08bn.

The firm also broke $1bn in profit, which reached $1.35bn. Revenue per lawyer was up nearly 16% from $1.61m to $1.86m, despite an increase in total headcount of 108, to 1,120. The results are even more impressive on PEP, which rose 39% from $5.23m to $7.29m – higher than any firm in last year’s Global 100 apart from first-place Kirkland & Ells ($7.52m) and second-place Wachtell ($7.29m).

‘We’ve been firing on all cylinders’, said Michael Carlinsky, who became global co-managing partner alongside William Burck when co-founding partner John Quinn transitioned to the role of chair in May 2022. ‘It all comes back to the strength of our brand. A firm can only be successful as the amount of work it generates. And, because we don’t have a corporate practice, our brand is central to generating work. Clients come to us not as a sideline, not because they have a corporate relationship with us, but because they want to come to the best.’

2023 saw no shortage of high-profile work for the world’s largest litigation-only firm. It acts for Ukraine in inter-state proceedings against the Russian Federation in the European Court of Human Rights, with a team led from London by office co-managing partner Alex Gerbi and partner Julianne Hughes-Jennett. In February, a team led by New York partners Alex Spiro, Andrew Rossman, and William Price successfully defended Elon Musk in a $12bn class action alleging that Musk and Tesla were liable for investor losses incurred after posts the billionaire made on Twitter (latterly X) regarding his plans to take Tesla private. Quinn later notched a win for Tesla in a racial discrimination case, while Spiro is also representing WeWork co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann in his bid to buy WeWork out of bankruptcy.

Carlinsky noted that work was ‘well spread throughout the firm’, but pointed to patent litigation, commercial litigation, and bankruptcy as key drivers of growth. The firm also continued to expand overseas – the London office posted a 47% increase in revenue in January, while last year saw Quinn open offices in Beijing in May and in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in September. In October it announced its intention to apply for a foreign law practice licence to set up in Singapore.

‘It’s a natural extension for us to continue to expand’, said Carlinsky. ‘When we open in a location like Abu Dhabi, we’re not seeking just to generate business to keep our lawyers there busy. We’re looking for opportunities to generate business for other parts of the firm. Our Gulf region offices generate significant business for our London office.’

Back on its home turf, Quinn opened an office in Wilmington, Delaware in January, led by Michael Barlow, once chief of staff to former state governor Jack Markell and a well-known figure in the Delaware courts. ‘People sometimes used to say, “the Delaware Bar is just waiting for Quinn to set up”’, said Carlinsky. ‘Well, now we have. We viewed it as a no-brainer. IP litigation is a big driver in Delaware right now. And, of course, the Delaware Court of Chancery is the venue of choice for major corporate governance disputes.’

Carlinsky also spoke of plans to build out in data protection, as well as regulatory and antitrust work. ‘White-collar is very, very active. Our group continues to grow. I expect we’re going to announce shortly some other additions’, he said.

‘The same is true on antitrust’, he continued. ‘We’ll continue to be opportunistic. There are lots of examples of corporate teams bringing in regulatory specialists to help resolve issues that arise as part of M&A work. We’d be very willing to build up our capabilities in that sort of work.’

Quinn is in no danger of pivoting to a full-service model – its litigation-only model is evidently working for it. But its openness to extending into areas of corporate work is a sign of its continued drive to grow.

‘We’re excited about the prospects as we move forwards’, said Carlinsky. ‘We had a historic year in 2023. And we believe it’s replicable.’