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Rude health: White & Case City revenue soars 18% and PEP cracks $3m to defy Covid

White & Case has traversed the pandemic minefield to reveal its strongest City financial results yet, with the London office increasing revenue by 18% in 2020 to $397m from $337m in 2019.

The pacey London showing comes against a backdrop of global success and proved something of a resurgence, given disappointing results in 2019 when City revenue dropped 4% amid subdued global  turnover growth of 7%.

Global turnover increased 9% in 2020 to $2.4bn from $2.18bn in 2019 and profit per equity partner (PEP) broke the $3m mark, a 16% increase on the $2.6m recorded the previous year.

Revenue per lawyer stood at just over $1m, a 7% increase on $991,000 in 2019, even as lawyer headcount grew 2% to 2,257 from 2,204 and the number of equity partners increased 3% from 332 to 342.

Notably, the results mark the successful conclusion of White & Case’s 2020 strategy, which put London and New York at the centre of its ambitions to explicitly expand in core markets.

Indeed, City expansion has been striking, with the number of partners in London growing 37% during the period of the 2020 strategy. There were 89 London partners on 1 January 2016 and 122 partners on 1 January 2021.

London executive partner, Melissa Butler (pictured), told Legal Business: ‘We have seen growth in all practice areas. The entire office has been very busy, the financial restructuring and insolvency and bankruptcy teams particularly, but also capital markets and disputes. The entire London office did well, not just down-cycle practices. We are really proud of what we have accomplished.’

Executive committee member, Oliver Brettle, noted:  ‘It has been a strong year despite the pandemic with everyone getting stuck in and working extremely hard around the globe. Our hires for bankruptcy, restructuring and SPACs [special purpose acquisition companies] work have helped sustain that success.’

Brettle called the London office ‘the strongest office of White & Case globally’, with record revenue, PEP and RPL in the City for 2020.

Butler is nevertheless wise to the ongoing difficulties posed by the pandemic. ‘2020 has been a challenging year on a deeply personal level and it is hard to separate the personal challenges from the professional success. We have prioritised our people and the financial success is the output of that.’

Brettle added that the American practice grew banking, capital markets and litigation by double-digits and that EMEA was strong across the board. Asia Pacific had double-digit revenue growth over 2019. ‘The strength and diversity of our practices and people have helped us as we navigated through with our clients,’ he said.

On the firm’s plans to return to the office post-lockdown, Butler was clear: ‘The wellbeing of our people has always been at the forefront and will continue to guide our decisions. We have proved that we can work really well remotely and really well in the office. While we are keen to get back to the office, we will only be transitioning back when it is safe to do so.’

Brettle ended on a bullish note, highlighting positive stats on gender diversity. ‘We promoted 40 partners globally, of which 38% were women and 42% of partner promotions in the US were women. Two thirds of the new partners in London were women. There has been a continued promotion of women in the partnership and that is very important to the future of our global strategy.’