Skadden, Cleary, Simpson and Davis Polk see revenues rise in 2011

A quartet of elite New York law firms saw revenues grow last year, as details of the 2011 financial performance of America’s top firms continue to emerge, reports The Am Law Daily.

The biggest of the four, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, saw revenue increase 3% to $2.17bn (£1.38bn), while profits per partner (PEP) rose 7% to $2.48m (£1.58m).

Skadden had a hand in many of 2011′s major deals, including pharma company Express Scripts’ $29.1bn (£18.6bn) acquisition of Medco Health Solutions in July, while the firm also took a high-profile restructuring role as debtor’s counsel on MF Global’s Chapter 11 filing in October.

Early on in the year the firm’s litigation practice secured two key victories for a group of TNK-BP shareholders in its dispute with BP over its proposed $16bn (£10bn) alliance with Russia’s Rosneft, first obtaining an injunction and later an arbitration tribunal win.

During the year Skadden also made a number of notable hires in London, including Macfarlanes funds partner Stephen Sims, who joined to help launch the firm’s first investment management practice outside of the US, as well as SNR Denton advocacy chief and former deputy chairman Rory McAlpine.

Meanwhile, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton saw revenue surge 7% to $1.125bn (£718m) during 2011, up from last year’s figure of $1.05bn (£670m), while PEP rose 3% to $2.7m (£1.7m).

The firm was also involved in some of 2011′s biggest deals, including Bank of America’s sell-off of billions of dollars of shares in the China Construction Bank and Google’s proposed $12.5bn (£8bn) acquisition of Motorola Mobility in August. Cleary has also had a large team of lawyers working on behalf of Greece in connection with the country’s debt crisis since August.

In August the firm opened for business for Brazil with the launch of a new base in Sao Paulo, while key lateral hires during the year included the addition of Clifford Chance’s (CC’s) Americas head of litigation and dispute resolution Juan Morillo.

At Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, revenue rose 4% last year to $963m (£615m), while PEP edged up to $2.66m (£1.70m) from $2.64m (£1.68m).

Key deals the firm handled during the year included KKR’s $7.2bn (£4.6bn) acquisition of Samson Investment Company – one of the biggest leveraged buyouts of the year – as well as Petrohawk Energy’s $12.1bn (£7.7bn) acquisition by BHP Billiton in July.

Simpson Thacher’s London office, which was joined by former CC partner Jason Glover in January, picked up a trophy role on a multibillion-euro fundraising for private equity house Apax, while the firm made two further magic circle hires to launch a local law practice in Hong Kong, with Celia Lam, the joint Greater China managing partner for Linklaters, and Christopher Wong, the former head of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s China corporate practice, joining in the autumn.

Elsewhere, Davis Polk & Wardwell took in $910m (£580m) during 2011, up 5% from $870m (£555m) in 2010, while PEP also grew 5% from $2.3m (£1.5m) from $2.2m (£1.4m).

The firm continued to expand internationally, opening a Sao Paulo office in August and adding four lateral partner hires around the world.

Davis Polk’s bank-centered restructuring practice was busy all year, advising clients including Citigroup on a $950m (£607m) financing for Eastman Kodak Company, and JPMorgan Chase as agent in restructuring the Tribune Company’s $8.5bn (£5.4bn) bank debt. The firm also acted as US counsel on Prada’s $2.1bn (£1.3bn) Hong Kong listing during the summer.

Looking back at 2011, one partner in management at a Wall Street firm commented: “It was a year of two distinct halves. Every firm with a substantial M&A and capital markets practice saw a much better first half.”

Several senior corporate partners at major New York firms remain concerned about the lack of deals and financings coming into the first quarter of 2012. The market “still seems fragile,” said one senior partner. “Private equity firms, which tend to have a big role in the M&A market, are still holding back.”

For more, see Early results see US firms sustain post-crisis recovery as financials rise.