‘No plans to stand still’: Morgan Lewis’ revenue surges to £34m in London

Morgan Lewis & Bockius’ London office revenue grew 17% in the year ended September 2016, increasing its London revenue last year to £33.9m, up from £29.1m in 2015.

The figures were revealed in limited liability partnership (LLP) documents filed in respect of its London and Paris offices.

Overall in 2017, the top 20 US law firm reported a global profit per equity partner (PEP) of $1.23bn and global revenues of $1.86bn, with 754 partners globally.

Meanwhile, the firm’s Paris revenue remained static at £2.4m this year, compared to 2015/16.

The Philadelphia-headquartered firm also grew its partnership from 31 to 39 partners across its London and Paris offices.

Last year, the London office hired, among others, finance partners Simon Currie, who joined from Covington & Burling, and Matthew Duncan, Julian Goodman and Paul Matthews from K&L Gates. The firm now counts 100 lawyers in its City practice.

The UK and Paris results were the outcomes of the second year of activity for the office as a UK LLP. Unlike other top US firms, it converted its London and Paris offices to UK LLPs in 2014, just days after the acquisition of 226 partners and more than 525 other lawyers from Boston-headquartered Bingham McCutchen.

Morgan Lewis’ London office, established in 1981, remains one of the smaller of the US firms City offerings in terms of turnover. By comparison, Covington’s City office, founded in a similar period, in 1988, reported UK turnover of $69.5m (approx. £54m) for the calendar year 2016.

While the firm is registered a local LLP in London as a regulatory requirement, the firms operates on a global basis. Frances Murphy (pictured), appointed managing partner of Morgan Lewis’ London office in October 2016, Murphy warned of the risks in looking at local figures ‘and comparing apples and pears.’

Murphy, a former Bingham McCutchen antitrust and trade regulation head, said that ‘for all of our European offices, our intention is to continue to invest in talent strategically, but only on a client demand and quality basis.’ The firm also has offices in Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris and Moscow.

‘My focus is really getting on with delivering high quality work and continuing to recruit high quality lawyers. My goal would be not just to keep up with our competitors but to surpass them,’ Murphy said.

She said the firm had ‘no plans to stand still, quite the opposite.’

In particular, Murphy praised the firm’s London office for its very strong performance in antitrust, finance and asset management over the year.

She said standout matters for Morgan Lewis last year included its representation of Sainsbury’s in its damages claim, alongside 14 other retailers, against Visa, for unfairly fixed domestic and cross-border multilateral interchange fees.

In 2016, Morgan Lewis was named as a lead advisor, alongside Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, A&L Goodbody and Arthur Cox, as Japanese company Sumitomo Corporation agreed to buy Irish fruit and vegetable company Fyffes for £639m.

In the global spotlight over the last year was the firm’s representation of US president Donald Trump through Washington-based tax partner Sheri Dillon, who reportedly advised the US president to distance himself from his business operations.

As Legal Business reported last November, Morgan Lewis emerged as a potential buyer for King & Wood Mallesons’ (KWM) European arm, which later went into administration. However, the talks were called off a month later, strained by uncertainty over the future of KWM’s European business.

Georgiana.tudor@legalease.co.uk