The Score

February 16, 2010 4:52 PM

THE AM LAW 100: Profits, Revenue Rise at Gibson Dunn

Posted by Drew Combs

Despite the economic downturn, revenue and profits remain on an upward trajectory at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, according to the firm, which has released its financials for 2009.

Gross revenue rose nearly four percent to $995 million, marking the best income performance in the firm's history. Profits per equity partner (PPP) also increased, albeit by a more modest 1.6 percent to 1.905 million. "In the context of what was happening," says firm chairman Kenneth Doran, "It was an extraordinarily strong year for us."

Possibly as a testament to the broader challenges faced by the legal industry, revenue per lawyer at the Los Angeles-based firm fell 2.38 percent to $1.012 million. Doran says the firm’s leadership was committed to "getting through the year without any economic layoffs." He adds, "Our strategy was to keep our team intact."

In fact, Gibson Dunn's team grew in 2009. Overall head count increased 6.5 percent to 983, while the equity partnership ranks increased 3.6 percent over the year from 274 to 284. The biggest percentage gain occurred in the firm’s nonequity partner ranks, which increased 49 percent from 18 to 28. "The nonequity partner tier, which is relatively new for us, gives the firm the flexibility to grow in markets with which we are less familiar," Doran says, explaining the jump.

New York is a market with which the firm is quite familiar, a fact that was further solidified last year when it became the firm's largest. Among the more recent additions to the New York office was a trio of litigation partners from Clifford Chance who joined in June. "It makes sense that New York is our largest office," Doran says, "It is the largest market for high-end legal services."

In 2009 several companies turned to Gibson for those high-end legal services. The firm defended Dole Food Company, Inc., in several lawsuits brought by plaintiffs from Nicaragua and the Ivory Coast alleging they were left sterile by exposure to a pesticide once used at the company's banana plantations. An investigation spearheaded by the firm uncovered not only that some of the plaintiffs were not sterile but that some had never worked at the plantations. Last year, the firm also signed on to represent Chevron Corporation in a long-running dispute involving oil pollution in Ecuador.

Gibson Dunn remained busy on the corporate front as well, putting together a number of high-profile deals. The firm represented Kraft Foods, Inc., in its $21.4 billion takeover of Cadbury Plc and its lawyers handled Inc.'s $847 million acquisition of "Many sectors of the firm have remained engaged in 2009 and will benefit as the economy begins to strengthen," Doran says.

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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