Design: Roberto Jimenez. Photo: Shutterstock
It seems ages ago, but 2019 was a banner year for blue chip law firms with roots in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.
What data do you use to stand out in a crowded market? Get the interactive Am Law 200 data exclusively with Legal Compass.
The two companies with the highest revenue and historical ties to Los Angeles – Latham & Watkins and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher – saw double-digit sales increases. Latham grew 11.3% while Gibson Dunn grew 10.4%.
"It's been a fabulous year in all exercise groups and offices," said Kenneth Dunan, chairman and managing partner of Gibson Dunn in Los Angeles, whose company has passed the $ 2 billion mark for the first time.
Two other major SoCal-based companies, Sheppard Mullin and Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, were also proud for years. The former recorded a 13% increase in sales and the latter 16.3%.
The news was also good for the largest players in Northern California, who are closely related to the Bay Area's tech economy. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati led the pack with growth of 12.1%, followed by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe with 10.8%, Morrison & Foerster with 10%, Fenwick & West with 9.8% and Cooley with 8.4 %. All of this happened in a year when the average Am Law 200 firm increased its sales by 5% – a strong result borne by the great advances made by California's elites.
Joe Conroy, CEO and Chairman of Cooley, describes 2019 as an "amazing" year on the corporate side, reflecting the high demand for risk finance and large business deals with technology companies.
A number of other California companies with very different characteristics were also successful. San Francisco's Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, which has offices in all states, joined Am Law 100 with 11.9% sales growth.
In the second century, Los Angeles-based bookkeeping saw its second consecutive year of growth of more than 15%, reaching 17.3%. Orange County-based intellectual property specialist Knobbe Martens increased sales by 12.1%. San Francisco's 170-person lawyer Hanson Bridgett was one of three companies to switch to the Am Law 200 for the first time.
What data do you use to sell strategies internally? Get the interactive Am Law 200 data exclusively with Legal Compass.
"It was the strength of the economy and especially California's position in the global economy," said San Francisco-based recruiter Avis Caravello. "Tech, private equity, venture capital, biotech – it was just a perfect alignment."
While most companies saw growth both nationally and particularly in California in 2019, Irell & Manella recorded a sales and employee payment contract in Los Angeles for the fourth time in a row. The firm's return on sales decreased 12% to $ 151.6 million, while the 87 attorneys made up a fraction of the 199 attorneys who called the firm in 2009. In February of this year, the firm announced a strategy that linked the declines: it largely put the transaction at work to focus on high-quality litigation.
Given the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it wouldn't be shocking if other companies made similar bold strategic decisions. However, Caravello believes that the largest companies in California are well positioned to withstand current pressures, especially compared to the experience with the Dotcom bust in the early 2000s.
"These California companies are now global companies," she says. "I think they are much stronger than their New York counterparts to weather the economic instability we are currently facing."