Author: Legal Week
14 Dec 2009 | 00:13
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Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw was formed in 2002 with the merger of Chicago's Mayer Brown & Platt with London's Rowe & Maw.
In 2006 the firm's revenues stood at $1.09bn (£540m), ranking it within the top 10 largest US-based law firms, although partner profits of $1.1m (£546,000) placed it well behind Chicago competitors such as Kirkland & Ellis, McDermott Will & Emery and Sidley Austin.
The firm rebranded as Mayer Brown during 2007 during a time of uncertainty, as longtime chairman Tyrone Fahner prepared for his retirement. In his place, the firm unveiled a three-headed chairman's office - Chicago's James Holzhauer, the de facto chairman and previous general counsel of the firm; Washington's Kenneth Geller, the vice chairman; and London-based Paul Maher, also a vice chairman and an M&A specialist.
The transition at the top came during a bumpy 18 months, which saw the loss of at least 20 partners from the firm's New York office as well as the de-equitisation of 45 partners, with the firm's 2007 dubbed by The American Lawyer as the " year of the long knives", as the firm's equity partner headcount dropped by 8%.
However, the firm came through the tough spell to post strong results for 2007, with both revenue and partner profits increasing by 9% to new marks of $1.183bn (£600.6m) and $1.24m (£629,000) respectively.
2008 saw Mayer Brown in expansive mode, with the completion of a merger with leading Hong Kong firm Johnson Stokes & Master, a move which handed the firm a seven-office network in Asia with more than 260 lawyers and a turnover of $160m (£80.5m). However, plans for a tie-up with Heller Ehrmann hit the rocks shortly before the troubled San Francisco firm went under in September 2008.
A governance overhaul completed in April 2009 ushered a new management structure, with the elimination of the both Maher and Geller's vice-chairman seats.
Along with voting in favour of Herbert 'Bert' Krueger (pictured) to replace Holzhauer as chairman, the firm's partners also approved a plan to replace its 16-member policy and planning committee with a new six-member management committee and 12-member partnership board.
One poster suggests the firm is shifting towards a more ruthless approach than might have been expected before. "It's easier to change the culture of a firm for the worse (by making it seem like a money-grabbing, cut-throat institution) than it is to improve it," he cautions.
"Promotion to partner is tricky," notes one contributor. "The finance group has made three hires recently at partner level and all have been senior associates... from other firms. The message clearly is that the best way to make partner at MB is to get passed over first at another firm."
Another contributor questions that, suggesting that 2007's run of departures has made progression into the partnership that much easier.
"The firm has... hired seven partners and made up 43 this year," he argues. "However, even this has sparked considerable controversy as many of the new and recently made-up partners describe themselves as 'glorified senior associates' due to low pay and lack of involvement in firm management. Getting made up to partner appears to be a bit easier than one comment above suggests, but the question is - what type of partnership are you getting?"
"Not a bad place to work in the very junior ranks," says one Mayer Brownite, "although in some groups you can forget about a life during the week."
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