Slater & Gordon
Under Grech, Slater & Gordon became the first law firm to go public.
Goodrich & Rosati
IN 2007 Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech
led his firm through
an initial public offering on the Australian Securities Exchange, making it the
world’s first publicly
listed law firm. On its
first day of trading,
Slater’s experience has demonstrated vividly
what a multimillion-dollar capital injection can
do for a law firm. Since its IPO, the Australian
firm has acquired more than 20 local competitors. In 2012 it opened in London by buying a
U.K. personal injury firm, and expanded further
this year by acquiring three more U.K. rivals.
Revenue has grown from $61.7 million in 2006
to $198.8 million in 2011. We couldn’t have “
expanded in the way that we wanted and needed if
not for our listing,” says Grech.
An IPO is still not an option for U.S. firms,
and although the United Kingdom’s Legal Services Act allows outside investors to hold stakes
in law firms, no U.K. firms have yet listed. Even
in Australia, not everyone thinks going public is
a smart move. At Slater’s domestic competitor
Maurice Blackburn, chairman Steve Walsh has
said that a public company’s obligations—
including investor meetings and analyst calls—are
a distraction from practicing law. So far, only
two smaller Australian plaintiffs firms, Shine
Lawyers and ILH Group Ltd., have followed
Slater’s model by listing.
But Grech is undeterred. The firm has earmarked its next capital raising for further U.K.
expansion in personal injury. “We are looking to
dominate the market in the U.K.,” he says.
LARRY SONSINI’S “three circles” strategy
of serving companies throughout the corpo-
rate life cycle—start-up, initial public offering,
and maturity—has become part of the legal
culture throughout Silicon Valley, not just at
Sonsini’s own firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich &
Rosati. Sonsini realized early on that start-up
work would keep lawyers on the cutting edge
of tech business. Work for mature public com-
panies, in turn, helps lawyers identify potential
issues on the horizon for young companies.
Says Sonsini: “I think the experience of seeing
growth and the hazards along the way makes
you a very, very valuable [partner].”
Counsel to the Trolls
Niro, Haller & Niro
Niro shook up the IP world by winning big damages for patent holders.
IS LAW A BUSINESS or profession? We
might finally have an answer. In February
2012 Pepper Hamilton partners hired Scott
Green, a nonlawyer with a background in
business and accounting, as the firm’s CEO.
Although Green answers to the firm’s board,
he’s the first nonlawyer executive in The
Am Law 100 to have a managing partner
and practice heads reporting to him. His approach so far has been reformist, not revolutionary: hiring project management experts
to analyze the staffing and pricing of matters. Other large U.S. law firms haven’t made
a similar CEO hire. But if Green is successful,
he’s not likely to be one-of-a-kind very long.
pejorative term for
patents that they
have little or no intention of using to
make a product—has
become such a part
of the parlance that
the Obama administration used the term when seeking new patent
litigation reform legislation in June. That was
just the latest example of the impact that Chicago’s Raymond Niro of Niro, Haller & Niro
has had on the profession. An in-house Intel
Corporation lawyer dubbed Niro’s client TechSearch LLC the very first “patent troll” in 2001
in the pages of The Recorder, an affiliate of The
American Lawyer. (TechSearch had earlier sued
Intel for libel after being called something even
less flattering—a patent “extortionist.”)
Defense lawyers might be irked to hear it,
but Niro has had more influence on big-firm
patent litigation practices than almost anyone.
He made a name for himself by winning a string
of eight-digit damages awards on contingency
for inventor and patent-holding company clients in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Niro’s detractors may criticize him and myriad copycats
as shakedown artists who exploited the patent
laws to garner outsize damages awards and scare
up nuisance settlements, but critics don’t often
pan Niro’s courtroom skills. He brought a trial
lawyer’s approach to the dry and technical world
of patent law by playing up the role of the inventor before judges and juries.
“I have given the little guy the opportunity
to fight the big guy,” Niro says. And that’s kept
the defense bar busy.
Berwin Leighton Paisner
IT’S GOOD TO get out of the office once
in a while. Sitting on a Caribbean beach in
2006, Berwin Leighton Paisner partner Simon
Harper dreamed up a new way of servicing
clients to let them more flexibly manage
their in-house resources. Lawyers on Demand is a pool of more than 120 freelance
lawyers, backed by BLP training and support, available to temporarily bolster clients’
legal departments. With clients like Google
UK Limited and The Royal Bank of Scotland
Group plc and revenue of almost £ 9 million,
LoD spun out from BLP into a separate corporate entity in 2012, and Harper left the
firm to manage LoD full-time.