It is often said that the legal industry excels in extreme market conditions and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s 2020 financial results bear testament to that, with the firm’s London office proving again bullish on the back of a stellar run of restructuring matters.
City revenue grew a pacy 19% to $149.2m from $125.1m last year meaning that the London office has bolstered its revenue 55% since 2017. These results are something of a return to form for Akin Gump’s City arm after a flat 2019 when turnover grew only 1%. They reflect the office’s wheelhouse of restructuring following the 2014 acquisition of 28 partners fronted by star restructuring veteran James Roome from the ill-fated Bingham McCutchen.
Global performance has also exceeded last year’s 6% rise to $1.135bn, with gross revenue standing at $1.2bn – a 6.5% increase on 2019. Financial metrics were strong across the board, with profit per equity partner (PEP) of $3m signalling a 16% increase on 2019’s $2.6m PEP figure.
Meanwhile, revenue per lawyer (RPL) saw an 8% increase to $1.35m from $1.25m last year.
Speaking to Legal Business, Sebastian Rice, partner in charge of the London office, said: ‘Financial restructuring has led the way and played a strong part in the performance with that team doing some very high-profile work. Corporate has been busy with partners that joined at the end of 2019. We only made one lateral hire in 2020 so it enabled us to fully integrate the 2019 hires so they could hit the ground running.’
Rice pointed to an impressive list of mandates from across the London office’s practice areas including: Advising a group of senior secured noteholders on the financial restructuring of Travelex, led by partner Liz Osborne; acting for creditors of Premier Oil on its merger with Chrysaor and the restructuring of $2.7bn of debt, led by Barry Russell and Lois Deasey; and advising Coller Capital on the restructuring of Permira’s fourth fund, with a value of more than $800m, led by Mary Lavelle.
Rice described the $2.5bn IPO and Nasdaq listing of Royalty Pharma plc, on which Harry Keegan in London and Stuart Leblang and David Antheil in the US advised, as ‘a marquee matter’. He also noted a win in the successful defence of Robert Foresman, vice chairman at UBS Investment Bank, in litigation arising from an investment in a consortium bidding for assets in the Yukos insolvency, led by Mark Dawkins.
After an expansive 2019 of nine lateral hires, the London office added only one new partner last year in the form of the well-regarded leveraged finance partner Amy Kennedy who joined from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in March 2020.
Rice is sanguine on the firm’s performance but places it in the context of wider upheaval amid the coronavirus pandemic. ‘We have been fortunate with how things have gone at the firm but obviously not with the way the world is looking at the moment. Following the strategy and focusing on our core strengths, sticking to that very carefully, and not growing for growth’s sake, has been a big part of our success. We’re confident we’ve got the right mix of practices and that we’ve got what we need to help clients respond to the challenges and opportunities that arise.’
He credited global chair Kim Koopersmith for her promotion of the firm’s culture of collaboration, its focus on diversity and inclusion, as well as its early investment in remote working, all of which have led the firm through challenging times.
Concluded Rice: ‘We have adjusted to a completely different reality and adapted to working from home, but people have been put under significant pressure with the schools shut or having to look after elderly relatives or living on their own. This presents huge challenges and we have invested a lot in supporting our people. We can’t meet clients, it’s a different way of working, but I’m incredibly proud of how the firm has adapted.’