January 29, 2010 2:23 PM

THE AM LAW 100: Hughes Hubbard's Revenue, Profits Spike

Posted by Vivia Chen

Add Hughes Hubbard & Reed to the short list of blessed law firms for 2009. Not only did the 280-lawyer firm hold steady during a year of extraordinary economic turbulence, but it made double-digit gains in gross revenue and profits per partner.

Hughes Hubbard posted a 10 percent increase in gross revenue (from $251.8 million in 2008 to $277 million in 2009). Moreover, profits per equity partner rose 9.7 percent (from $1.34 million in 2008 to $1.47 million in 2009). And revenue per lawyer also increased nicely by 5 percent (from $943,000 in 2008 to $990,000 last year).

We had a feeling that 2009 would be a good year for the firm. For one thing, word leaked out last week that Hughes Hubbard was unfreezing its salaries and reinstating Cravath, Swaine & Moore-scale bonuses.

Daniel Weiner, cochair of Hughes Hubbard’s personnel committee, confirmed the sweet news. “We had a very strong year—a lot of work on product liability and Lehman matters,” says Weiner. (The firm is counsel to the trustee in the liquidation of Lehman Brothers, and to the U.S. Department of the Treasury in sorting out the troubled assets of some 2,500 financial institutions under the $700 billion bailout plan.)  

Unlike many Am Law 200 firms, Hughes Hubbard's overall head count grew by 5 percent last year, and the firm lost only one equity partner.

The strong bonuses were also a reflection of the firm's healthy year. Weiner says that the bonuses are above market (for instance, a 2009 associate billing 2,500 hours can rake in $45,000 in bonus).  The firm didn’t have to be so generous, suggests Weiner, but “we want to share some of that bounty.” Still, he emphasizes that bonus recipients must “perform up to expectations” in hours, quality of work, and efficiency, among other factors.

By all accounts, no one is complaining about the strings attached to the gift horse. “Morale has been high here,” says Weiner. Despite the firm’s strong financial performance, Weiner says, “I hate to say everything is back to normal,” adding the inevitable cliche, “we continue to be cautiously optimistic.”

This report is part of The Am Law Daily's ongoing Web coverage of The Am Law 100’s 2009 financials. Results are preliminary. Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer's May 2010 issue and on The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.

The final published results of last year's Am Law 100 rankings are available here.

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