White & Case Takes A Hit, Revenue Down 11 per cent

Deflated Balloon

The American Lawyer continues to roll out its “AM LAW 100” numbers, and the news was not good at White & Case.

Am Law: Total gross revenue for the firm was $1.3 billion compared with $1.46 billion in 2008. Profits per equity partner (PPP) were largely flat at $1.595 million.  The firm is so far the largest U.S. practice to report its numbers for 2009.

As Richard Lloyd noted in his report, White & Case made huge reductions in March, laying off 200 attorneys and 200 staff members.

The firm became the public face of the firm financial crisis, in a way, when it was profiled in a New York Times piece titled, “A Study in Why Major Law Firms Are Shrinking.”

That article discussed firm chair Hugh Verrier’s decision to make the cuts, and provided the best snapshot we’ve seen over what it felt like to be a big firm lawyer in those uncertain days of early 2009.

NYT: The reaction was swift and frantic. Partners who were staying scurried to protect their favourite workers; résumés were burnished and beamed out to recruiters.

As the victims were informed at private meetings with supervisors, a group of young lawyers downed tequila at a nearby tavern and morbidly scratched a “whack list” on a legal pad with guesses as to who was getting the ax.

This report partially explains the exodus of numerous partners from White & Case over the past weeks. White & Case was established in 1901, and clearly the firm is going through one of the roughest points in its history. Good or bad, indications seem to be that 2010 will be a history-maker for the firm.

Overall, law firms reporting financials so far have been less harrowing than would be expected. Revenues are down, but attorney, staff and general cost reductions seem to have kept profits per partner fairly steady. 

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