Davis Polk & Wardwell did what few New York firms were able to do last year: the firm increased both revenue and profits per equity partner (PPP) significantly, according to AmLaw Daily.
Meanwhile, our reporting indicates that Sullivan & Cromwell posted extremely modest 1 percent gains in revenue and PPP. Revenue and profits at a third Wall Street firm, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, were basically flat in 2009.
Davis Polk and Sullivan fared better last year than in 2008, when both posted flat revenue and lower profits.
Head count at both firms grew 5 percent last year. Accounting for at least some of the increased profitability, leverage increased at both Davis Polk and Sullivan, with associate ranks growing faster than partner numbers, which stayed basically flat. The ratio of nonpartners to partners rose to 3.2:1 from 2.9:1 at Sullivan; at Davis Polk, it increased to 3:1 from 2.9:1.
The firms said fewer lawyers left the firm last year; in the past, a larger number of lawyers have gone in-house to banking and other large institutional clients.
Davis Polk was the biggest success story. Our reporting shows that revenue at the firm was up roughly 7 percent, which represents the highest percentage growth among New York firms. The firm’s PPP rose an astonishing 10 percent–at least 5 percent higher than roughly a dozen other elite New York firms for whom we have collected information, including Shearman & Sterling, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, among others.
Davis Polk partners took home an average of nearly $2.1 million last year, up from $1.9 million in 2008. Revenue per lawyer, an indicator of just how busy lawyers were, also rose by nearly a percent to $1.2 million.