The Am Law 100, the Early Numbers: For Dentons' U.S. Arm, Flat Revenue and Slight Rise in Profits

, The Am Law Daily


AmLaw 100

UPDATE: 2/12/14, 10:38 a.m. EST. The Globe and Mail reports that more than 20 Heenan Blaikie lawyers have agreed to join Dentons.

Two months after the collapse of its planned combination with McKenna Long & Aldridge and nearly a year after a three-way merger with Paris-based Salans and Toronto-based Fraser Milner Casgrain, Dentons reported Monday that gross revenue was essentially flat for its U.S. arm in 2013 and profits per equity partner were up 4.8 percent.

Dentons, which under its Swiss verein structure maintains five separate regional LLPs, said it had roughly $473 million in U.S. gross revenue last year, while its profits per equity partner hit $958,000. Revenue per lawyer in the U.S. rose 1.4 percent to $789,000, according to a press release issued by the 2,600-lawyer firm.

The disclosure of Dentons' U.S. financial performance for 2013 came amid what a source with direct knowledge of the matter described as ongoing discussions about potentially taking on between 30 and 40 lawyers from dissolving national Canadian firm Heenan Blaikie. The Am Law Daily reported in a separate story published Monday that DLA Piper, another Swiss verein, had ended its own negotiations over hiring between 55 and 70 Heenan Blaikie lawyers in Calgary and Toronto.

Mike McNamara, U.S. managing partner of Dentons and the chair of the firm's public policy and regulation group, declined to comment on a potential expansion in Canada other than to note that his firm’s operations in the country are headed by Canada CEO Christopher Pinnington. Five units covering the U.S., Canada, Europe, Hong Kong/Asia-Pacific and U.K., Middle East and Africa—some of whose fiscal years don't close under April 1—make up the the Dentons global brand.

The Am Law Daily reported last year that Dentons global had $710.5 million in gross revenue during 2012, while profits per partner were $785,000. Last month filings with the U.K.'s Companies House revealed that the firm's U.K., Middle East and Africa arm saw gross revenue dip slightly to $243 million in 2013, according to British legal news reports. (The American Lawyer's annual Am Law 100 rankings published in May will include the gross revenue and partner profit figures from all five Dentons LLPs.)

While the extent of Dentons' further Canadian expansion remains unclear, the firm has been busy over the past several days adding former Heenan Blaikie partners in Montreal and Toronto. On Monday, Dentons confirmed its hire of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, a Heenan Blaikie counsel for the past decade.

“Mr. Chrétien is a renowned global leader bringing his international experience and diplomacy to our Dentons team,” Dentons global CEO Elliott Portnoy said in a statement announcing the move. “We greatly look forward to working with him, as will our clients.”

Chrétien will join Dentons’ Ottawa office, which the firm acquired last year through its merger with FMC. Dentons adopted its current name after completing that deal, the latest in a series of tie-ups by the firm that began in 2010 when predecessor Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal combined with London-based Denton Wilde Sapte to become SNR Denton.

While acknowledging that the serial combinations are not cost free, McNamara says the deals have been successful for the firm’s U.S. arm, Dentons' largest component in terms of gross revenue and head count. And despite renaming itself twice in four years, McNamara says the firm's brand is catching on with clients. As proof, he cites an in-house survey conducted by global research firm Acritas that The American Lawyer reported on last year.

Both McNamara and Portnoy are former Arent Fox partners who joined Sonnenschein in 2002 to seek a broader platform for their public policy practice. Portnoy assumed leadership of Sonnenschein in 2006, ushering in an era of aggressive lateral hiring aimed at helping the firm grow. By the end of the decade, Sonnenschein’s expansion strategy became merger-focused, with McNamara serving as U.S. partner-in-charge of integration efforts with Denton Wilde Sapte. (McNamara was promoted to U.S. managing partner in December 2011.)

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