Latham & Watkins sees revenue soar 27% to smash $5bn barrier

Los Angeles giant’s income hits $5.49bn against a 26% rise in PEP to $5.71m

Latham & Watkins added more than $1bn to its topline last year, becoming the first law firm to break the $5bn revenue threshold after seeing its turnover leap 26.7% to reach a whopping $5.49bn.

Profit-per-equity-partner (PEP) grew by a similarly bullish 26.2% to hit $5.71m, up from $4.52m in 2020.

The performance is a marked improvement on 2020 when revenue was up 15% and PEP by 20%, reflecting record deal markets last year. The results also make Latham a stand out performer of the US firms to have posted their results to date. 

Other top 10 US firms to have already released their results include Hogan Lovells, whose revenue rose by 13% to $2.6bn, White & Case, which recorded a 20% revenue rise to $2.87bn, and Sidley Austin, which saw income jump by 13.5% to $2.795bn

And while the Los Angeles giant has beaten Kirkland & Ellis to announce revenue of more than $5bn, it is only a matter of timing as it seems inevitable that the Chicago giant will post an equally robust set of results when it reports its own 2021 numbers. A similar performance by Kirkland would see its 2020 revenue of $4.83bn jump to more than $6bn.

Latham chair and managing partner, Rich Trobman, described 2021 as “another successful year” for the firm.

“We combined our worldwide resources with the best talent, sector knowledge, and experience to drive positive outcomes for our clients across all industries. Looking ahead, we will continue to invest in our global platform, execute on our strategy and deliver great client service,” he said. 

The firm placed second behind Sullivan & Cromwell in Refinitiv’s league table of the top M&A legal advisors for 2021, working on 943 deals worth $604bn as global M&A activity reached a record $5.9tr. That put it ahead of rival Kirkland & Ellis, which ranked third after advising on 997 deals last year worth $572bn.

Latham grew its lawyer headcount last year by more than 200 to 3,078 and at the same time upped revenue per lawyer by 17.7% to $1.78m.

Among the new arrivals was a three-partner team from DLA Piper and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati that joined in September to spearhead the launch of Latham’s new office in Austin, Texas, a month after Latham added a trio of partners from Shearman & Sterling and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to boost its energy and infrastructure industry group in Singapore. 

The firm also added M&A partners Ingo Strauss and Heiko Gotsche from Baker McKenzie in Düsseldorf in June and earlier in the year hired Ian Conner, a former director of the US Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition, as a partner in the firm’s litigation and trial department in Washington DC.

Latham promoted 19 to partner last February and gave another 44 lawyers the nod last October in an M&A-heavy round that was the firm’s largest ever.

Thirteen of those who made partner were based in the firm’s London office, which also saw investment in seven laterals over the course of the year focused mainly on the corporate, capital markets and finance teams.

Restructuring partner Bruce Bell joined in March from Linklaters, followed by private equity specialist Paul Dolman from Travers Smith, Alex Martin (structured finance, Weil Gotshal & Manges), Tom Bartlett (project finance, White & Case) and Shawn Anderson (capital markets, Kirkland & Ellis). Helen Lethaby also joined the tax team in June from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and in October James Lloyd came over from Orrick to join the litigation and trial department.

LeeAnn Black, Latham’s COO, described the firm’s culture of teamwork, focus on innovation and dedication to client service as critical to its success in 2021.

“We continue to see strong momentum across the platform as 2022 gets underway, and we remain focused on helping our clients with their most complex matters,” she added.

The firm kicked off the year with the hire of Sarah Fortt from Vinson & Elkins and Betty Huber from Davis Polk to lead its environmental, social and governance (ESG) practice in the US, with the duo co-chairing the firm’s ESG team alongside London partner Paul Davies.  

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]