Fenwick & West, MoFo, Dechert: Business of Law

Law firms posted increases in revenue and profit per partner last year, with the top 100 U.S. firms boosting revenue by 3.4 percent to $73 billion, according to a survey by American Lawyer magazine.

Profit per partner rose by 4.2 percent to $1.5 million on average, the annual survey found. Firms in the top half of the survey had a better year than the bottom half. The first 50 had increases of 3.6 percent in gross revenue and 8 percent in profit per partner, while the bottom 50 saw sales rise 3 percent as profit dropped 3.3 percent.

DLA Piper LLP took the top spot in gross revenue, with $2.4 billion, edging out last year’s leader Baker & McKenzie LLP, which had $2.3 billion, according to the magazine.

New to the list were Bracewell & Giuliani LLP; Faegre Baker Daniels LLP; Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP; McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP; and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC.

Firms that fell off the list in terms of revenue included Chadbourne & Parke LLP, which had been on it since the magazine started the survey 26 years ago.

Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz had the highest reported profit per partner at almost $5 million, an increase of about 12 percent from the year before, according to the magazine. Bracewell & Giuliani had the biggest increase in profit per partner, 42 percent, giving the firm’s partners $1.5 million compensation on average, according to the survey.

The magazine reports the numbers based on a combination of self-reporting by law firms and estimates by the magazine’s reporters for firms that don’t cooperate.

Firms that thrived in 2012 were those with international reach, strong transactions practices and the ability to handle diverse work, according to the magazine.

To see an interview with Robin Sparkman, editor-in-chief of American Lawyer magazine and Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia, click here.

Law Firms

Richard Dickson Elected Incoming Chairman of Fenwick & West

Technology and life sciences law firm Fenwick & West LLP elected Richard L. Dickson as chairman effective Jan. 1. He succeeds Gordon Davidson, who has held the post for 18 years and will continue his corporate practice.

“Richard is an extraordinary and universally respected leader in the firm, having spent the past 10 years in executive management roles,” Davidson said in a statement.

Dickson is chairman of the firm’s corporate group and has held leadership positions since heading Fenwick’s startup and venture capital practice group in 2002. He has been a member of Fenwick’s executive committee since 2008.

Dickson and Davidson have spent their entire careers at Fenwick and worked together for 20 years, Dickson said.

“We’re coming off of three consecutive years of record revenue,” Dickson said in a telephone interview. “Our mission and our strategies will remain the same.”

Under Davidson, Fenwick has expanded to more than 325 attorneys from about 150 in the 1990s, while revenue has more than doubled to exceed $260 million last year, the firm said. Fenwick, at the request of its clients, also came up with new fee arrangements and structures based on detailed data analysis.

“We know what it costs to do a deal. We know what it costs us to do a patent trial,” Dickson said. “It enables us to predict and work to a budget and work to a fixed fee.”

The transition to new leadership was prompted partly by term limits implemented by the firm several years ago. Davidson also said the demands of his practice-- including work on six different public offerings in the last year -- played a role in his return to focus full-time on his work.

“I’m not slowing down,” he said. “This frees me up to work with clients and I’ll be here for a long time to support Richard.”

One of the firm’s clients, which include technology companies DropBox Inc. and Google Inc., expressed support for the change.

“The smooth leadership transition is a sign of the firm’s maturity and stability,” Mark Chandler, Cisco Systems Inc.’s general counsel, said in a statement. “We anticipate this can only strengthen our ties.”


Private-Equity Lawyer Ellis Rejoins Morrison & Foerster

Morrison & Foerster LLP said Marcia Ellis, a mergers and acquisitions and private-equity lawyer, rejoined the firm as a corporate partner in its Hong Kong office. She advises clients on debt financing, private-equity transactions and complex cross-border mergers and acquisitions.

Ellis left the firm in 2008 to become the chief legal officer for Asia at D.E. Shaw & Co., where she assisted in making, restructuring and exiting investments in Asia, particularly China and India, the firm said in a statement. She also has represented funds in buying and selling of real estate, investing in real estate developers and establishing real estate joint ventures.

“Her experience in both inbound and outbound China deals, in particular leveraged investments and buyouts, coupled with her Chinese language skills, make her a rare talent,” Ven Tan, managing partner of Morrison & Foerster’s Hong Kong office, said in a statement about Ellis’s hire.

Morrison & Foerster has more than 1,000 lawyers at 16 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Rimon Hires IP Transactional Attorney in Los Angeles, Washington

Holly Logue, a former Capitol Hill staffer most recently at Logue PLLC, joined Rimon PC as a partner in its Los Angeles and Washington offices.

Logue counsels companies on IP transactional issues and has worked with biotechnology and medical device companies on their intellectual property and patent prosecution strategy, patent portfolio management and other transactional matters.

Following her work on Capitol Hill, Logue founded 17th Street Legal PLLC.

Rimon was formed five years ago and has lawyers at 11 offices in the U.S and Israel.


Legal Consultant Zimmermann: Up to 20% of AmLaw 200 “Weakened”

A substantial percentage of the nation’s largest law firms enter the sixth year of the Great Recession “badly weakened,” and more firms are expected to fail, according to law firm consultant Kent Zimmermann of the Zeughauser Group.

Their problems boil down to “too many attorneys for too little work,” Zimmermann told Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia. Zimmermann says firms should be concerned when average billable hours fall below 1,600 for two consecutive years and when realization rates -- the percent of bills the firm collects -- drop below 90 percent.

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ENRC Faces Formal Bribery Investigation by U.K Prosecutors

U.K. prosecutors opened a formal investigation into allegations that Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. paid bribes to win business in Kazakhstan and Africa.

The Serious Fraud Office probe is focusing on “allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption relating to the activities of the company or its subsidiaries” in those regions, David Jones, a spokesman for the SFO, said in an e-mail.

ENRC Chairman Mehmet Dalman resigned two days ago as the mining company’s three founding shareholders and the Kazakh government consider making an offer to buy the company, which produces iron ore, copper and power. Dalman was replaced by director Gerhard Ammann, former chief executive officer of Deloitte & Touche LLP’s Swiss practice.

ENRC traces its roots to its founders’ participation in the 1990s privatizations of Kazakh state assets, which were gradually combined into a single group of companies and listed in London in 2007.

ENRC is “assisting and cooperating fully with the SFO” and “is committed to a full and transparent investigation of its procedures and conduct,” the company said in a statement.

ENRC’s assets include iron ore, ferroalloy and power production operations in Kazakhstan, copper and cobalt businesses in Africa and a Brazilian iron ore project.

On April 11, the London-based company said it replaced Dechert LLP, a U.S. law firm hired to investigate corruption allegations. It has hired Fulcrum Chambers LLP to work with the SFO.

After Dechert was replaced, the SFO sent the law firm a so-called Section 2a notice seeking documents from its investigation, a person familiar with the report said. Dechert spokesman Will Salomone declined to comment on the SFO order or the Dechert report.

Dechert’s report on the company’s business practices in Kazakhstan, which the person said was handed to the SFO in July last year, raised concerns over “potentially fraudulent” payments totaling at least $100 million over four years, according to a copy of the report.

In the report, Dechert also alleged that the company granted a scholarship to the son of a local police chief in a region of Kazakhstan to attend the University of Michigan. The arrangement, which included two payments totaling around $38,000 in 2010, was discovered in February 2011 by ENRC’s internal audit, according to Dechert.

The Dechert report cited difficulties in conducting the investigation. In it, the law firm alleged that some ENRC employees were misleading Dechert’s staff, some contractors refused to cooperate, documents had been forged and investigators were given the wrong computer in one instance.

“An SFO investigation is currently being undertaken and therefore ENRC is unable to comment on ongoing investigations,” the company said in a statement in response to a request for comment on the Dechert report.

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