The Score

February 19, 2009 11:37 AM

THE AM LAW 100: Dechert Follows Market with Profits, Revenues Drop

Posted by Richard Lloyd

Dechert has become the latest Am Law 100 firm to announce a decline in revenues and profits for 2008. Profits per equity partner fell by 9 percent, from $2.35 million in 2007 to $2.14 million last year. Gross revenue dipped 2 percent to $816 million.

Head count also decreased--the firm lost 30 attorneys in 2008, with a total of 892 lawyers. Revenue per lawyer saw a slight uptick, hitting $915,000. The firm strengthened its grip on its equity partnership which shrunk from 163 to 152.

Commenting on the performance, firm chair Barton Winokur says that, "under the circumstances, the performance was very good." Also, given the firm's anxiety about business conditions in 2009, Dechert paid about $29 million of its 2009 expenses--including rent payments for all offices for the first quarter of this year--in the fourth quarter of 2008. "We looked at the current year and our philosophy is to be as conservative as can be, so we shifted a lot of cost," Winokur says.

The firm also moved to reduce its cost base with layoffs in 2008 and early this year. Last February, the firm let go of 13 associates. That was followed in December by a reduction of 72 staff members; the firm also said that 15 attorneys were under review in London. On February 12 of this year, another 19 lawyers were laid off, give a "reduction in demand," according to the firm. Real estate finance was one practice area to be cut; Winokur says the group has halved in size.

Despite the cuts and the reduction of the equity partnership, the firm brought on a number of high-profile laterals in 2008 and added an office in Beijing. Former Heller Ehrman chairman Matthew Larrabee joined the San Francisco office shortly after Heller's dissolution.

Winokur says that although the firm is well positioned to pick up regulatory work in the current climate, challenges remain. "When business doesn't do well, it's not good for law firms," he says.

Click here for The Am Law 100 - A Work In Progress, a chart tracking 2008 financials. Final published results of last year's Am Law 100 ranking are available here.

This report is part of The Am Law Daily's ongoing Web coverage of The Am Law 100s 2008 financials, bringing you our own reports and those from our sibling publications at Incisive Media. Results are preliminary.

Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer's May issue and on The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.

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Again, Dechert refuses to acknowledge the 50 lawyers it laid off between June '08 and January '09.

More than 10 percent of the associates, mostly senior, were laid off for business reasons over the past 9 months. About 8-10 income partners were sent packing as well.

Dechert's sole purpose in this world is to maintain its standing in the AmLaw 100 profits list. All other considerations are secondary.

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