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February 16, 2010 6:00 AM

THE AM LAW 100: Profits Up, Revenue Down at Shearman & Sterling

Posted by Michael D. Goldhaber

Shearman & Sterling reports an increase in profits per equity partner (PPP) of 4.2 percent to $1.735 million in 2009, while revenue declined 8.6 percent to $801 million.

"We're pleased how the year ended up," says senior partner Rohan Weerasinghe. "It was our second-best year in terms of profitability." And he adds, "We're looking at 2010 with a lot more optimism."

While merger activity was slow, Shearman's deal lawyers were saved from idleness by the Middle East, Asia, Germany, and the auto industry--or some combination thereof. The firm advised Abu Dhabi entities in buying $2.65 billion in Daimler stock, and investing with Daimler in Tesla Motors. It acted for Qatar Investment Authority on a €7 billion investment in Volkswagen and Porsche. Shearman represented China's Sichuan Tengzhong in the acquisition of Hummer from General Motors. And it counseled Germany on the restructuring of GM.

The capital markets practice was busy by any standard, especially in Sao Paolo. Shearman handled three of the world’s five largest IPOs in 2009: for Brazil’s VisaNet, the underwriters of Santander Brazil, and Metallurgical Corp. of China. It also advised the underwriters of a $4 billion debt offering by Petrobras, Brazil’s largest of the decade.

While associate head count was down 6.7 percent, the firm said it did not lay off any lawyers. In rough terms, Weerasinghe says half of the 2009 class of 100 associates and 40 more senior associates accepted a one-year leave in return for $65,000 in salary, plus medical benefits.

The returning associates should be needed, Weerasinghe says. "The timing is good," he says. "It worked out very well as a way of adjusting supply and demand without letting go of a lot of talented people that you spend time hiring."

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 AmericanLawyer.com. 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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