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February 17, 2012 1:22 PM

The Am Law 100, the Early Numbers: Profits and Revenue Up at Gibson, Dunn

Posted by Drew Combs

Putting further distance between itself and the economic downturn, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher posted increases in all key financial metrics last year, according to reporting by The American Lawyer.

The firm saw its gross revenue—which managed to maintain an upward trajectory throughout the recession—rise 9.7 percent to a new high of roughly $1.17 billion in 2011. Average profits per partner increased 7.2 percent to a record $2.47 million. That uptick comes on the heels of a 20 percent increase in profits in 2010 and represents Gibson, Dunn's third consecutive increase in profits. Additionally, the firm's revenue per lawyer increased 8.2 percent to $1.12 million.

"Last year was a very strong year across a number of practices areas and geographies," says Gibson, Dunn managing partner Kenneth Doran.

As in the past, the key to the firm's robust financial performance was its busy litigation practice, which accounted for 59 percent of gross revenue last year, compared to 55 percent in 2010. Says Doran: "Since the recession, our litigation group has been an even stronger contributor to the firm's [financial performance]."

Notable litigation matters Gibson, Dunn handled last year include successfully representing Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Janus Capital Management in separate cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, defending Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, in what proved to be a shaky breach of contract case brought by Paul Ceglia, and representing Chevron Corp. in an oil pollution case originating in Ecuador.

In January, sibling publication The American Lawyer awarded Gibson, Dunn the firm's second straight Litigation Department of the Year title.

The firm's corporate practice, which accounted for 32 percent of last year's gross revenue, is on the upswing, Doran says. Transactional work handled by Gibson, Dunn dealmakers in 2011 included representing Hewlett-Packard Co. in an $10 billion acquisition of British software company Autonomy Corporation plc and advising Transatlantic Holdings, Inc., in its acquisition by Alleghany Corp.

Both overall head count and the number of equity partners remained relatively flat last year, with the former increasing by ten lawyers, to 1,039, and the latter declining by three, to 274. (The firm's nonequity partner ranks were also essentially flat, increasing from 33 to 35.)

Gibson, Dunn was active on the lateral hiring front last year, adding a total of 20 lateral partners. Among the new arrivals: four former Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe litigation partners known for their work in the life sciences industry who joined in New York, as well as seven partners in Dallas, including four who joined from Vinson & Elkins in January. (Two additional Vinson & Elkins partners joined the firm in April.)

As strong as 2011 was, Doran sees better things ahead. "The results could have been stronger," he says. "We made strategic investments in the firm in the form of accelerating the depreciation of certain assets and making 11 new partners. Our strategy is about playing for the long term, not short-term numbers."

This report is part of The Am Law Daily's early coverage of 2011 financial results of The Am Law 100/200. Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer's May 2012 issue and on AmericanLawyer.com. The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue. An interactive chart of the financial results reported so far is available here. The chart will updated as additional data is reported.

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