Weil, Gotshal & Manges has scored an 18% global rise in profits per equity partner (PEP) as London turnover soared 33%, while Debevoise & Plimpton recorded a 17% PEP increase against a 12% revenue uptick.
Fellow US firm Reed Smith has finally returned to growth after two consecutive years of decline, increasing its top line 4% to $1.12bn in 2017. The firm’s London outpost had a particularly strong comeback, growing revenues 14% in sterling terms to £147m.
Weil’s firm-wide revenues rose 10% to $1.39bn, while PEP grew 18% to $3.64m and revenue per lawyer grew 6% to $1.24m, despite an increase in lawyer headcount and the number of equity partners.
The firm’s City arm office generated $165.4m (£128m) in revenue last year – a near 33% increase – based on the average sterling exchange rate for 2017.
A buoyant market for US restructuring work with an international element has bolstered London revenues while the firm’s leveraged finance, structured finance and private equity practices continue to grow.
Key matters for the year include advising Westinghouse Electric Company, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp, on its $9.8bn Chapter 11 proceedings, together with the firm’s US and European offices and advising offshore drilling provider Paragon Offshore on its parallel Chapter 11 and English administration proceedings.
Other major deals for Weil include advising Oaktree Capital on the global sale of Fitness First, as well as OMERS Infrastructure on the increase of its interest in Thames Water, AMP Capital on the acquisition of the Regard Group and mandates for Antin Infrastructure.
Other key developments in London include the hire of corporate partner James MacArthur from Herbert Smith Freehills in May 2016, the addition of real estate and infrastructure finance partner Paul Hibbert from Baker McKenzie in April 2017 and real estate investment partner Anthea Bamford from Berwin Leighton Paisner in November 2017.
Meanwhile, Debevoise’s firm-wide revenue for the year was $822m, up from $735m in 2016, a 12% increase. London saw revenue rise 5% to $112.7m from $107m the previous year. PEP rose 17% to $2.8m from $2.4m.
Key litigation matters in London include advising Rolls-Royce on its Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the UK’s Serious Fraud Office.
Significantly, Reed Smith’s PEP grew 6% to $1.177m amid an expansive year marked by 55 lateral hires worldwide, the addition of a 50-strong European team from the collapse of KWM Europe and a new office in Miami.
Revenue per lawyer grew 3% to $722,000 as the firm increased its lawyer headcount overall by 1% to 1,550 including 680 partners.
‘Our sector focus has started to deliver,’ said Alexander ‘Sandy’ Thomas, re-elected managing partner for a second term last summer . ‘We had a really balanced contribution across our transactional, regulatory and contentious practices and a balanced contribution geographically.’
Thomas added that life sciences and healthcare had a particularly strong year alongside energy and natural resources. The five sectors in which the firm is committed to being ‘industry leader’ also include financial industries, entertainment and media, and shipping and transportation.
The firm handled the US and EU competition clearance for Hong Kong shipping firm OOCL in its $6.3bn acquisition by China’s COSCO Shipping, which Thomas described as a ‘great example of sector expertise’, and advised Citibank on the financing of a public infrastructure project in Colombia.
Thomas pointed to London as ‘a great expression of the strategy of the firm’. ‘We have clients here organised around our five industry sectors and we are working very closely across our practices to grow our client relationships.’