July 1, 2011 7:55 AM

The A-List 2011: Hughes Hubbard & Reed, the New Leader

Posted by Amy Kolz

From the July/August 2011 Issue of The American Lawyer

JulyAug2011-128 Hughes Hubbard & Reed chair Candace Beinecke doesn't believe in "silver bullets" when it comes to managing a law firm. After years of steadily climbing up the ranks, her New York-based firm grabbed the number one spot on our 2011 A-List. But Beinecke says management focus isn't responsible for that success. Quite the opposite. "Our strategy has been to stick to what we know, grow but grow smart, and focus on clients, not on firm management," she says.

That approach sets Hughes Hubbard apart in an age of blockbuster mergers, massive lateral acquisitions, and the ascension of full-time law firm managers. The 300-lawyer firm has roughly the same head count as a decade ago and only one more office. (Hughes opened its seventh office in Jersey City in 2003.) Hughes hasn't adopted grand new diversity initiatives, implemented new pro bono requirements, or made massive changes to its associates program. Instead, Beinecke and her partners have made steady and small tweaks to the 123-year-old firm. The results have been impressive in their consistency, with Hughes Hubbard increasing its total A-List score every year since 2005.

Nowhere is the success of Hughes Hubbard's steady approach more evident than the firm's significant increases in revenue per lawyer. Hughes Hubbard's RPL increased 19 percent in 2010, resulting in an RPL score that is 25 percent higher than its score five years ago and 41 percent higher than its score on the first A-List survey in 2003. And yet Hughes Hubbard has studiously avoided expansion through big mergers or lateral acquisitions, events that could deflect time and energy away from clients toward integration.

Instead, Hughes Hubbard prefers small lateral acquisitions that bolster already successful practice areas. Take the firm's recent expansion of its restructuring and banking practice. Going into the financial crisis, Hughes Hubbard had a reputable practice, led by James Giddens, a bankruptcy veteran who was named as trustee in the liquidation of Lehman's brokerage business in September 2008. That same month, Hughes Hubbard acquired bankruptcy boutique Luskin, Stern & Eisler, adding three partners. Over the next year, the firm also lured Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher bankruptcy partner Kathryn Coleman and Lovells litigation partner Marc Henry. These timely additions brought in more than 50 active matters representing financial institutions, such as Société Générale S.A. and Citigroup Inc., in connection with the financial crisis. As the economic tide has shifted, several of these new relationships with financial institutions have led to loan and securities transactions work, says Beinecke.

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