Mayer Brown taps new leader amid catapulting profits, eying coastal growth

Signage is seen outside of the law firm Mayer Brown LLP in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Jon Van Gorp, a corporate partner at Mayer Brown who has led its banking and finance, capital markets and structured finances practices, will take over as firm chair on June 1.

Van Gorp succeeds Paul Theiss, who presided over a 74% boost in profits per equity partner at the Chicago-based firm since taking the helm in 2012, Mayer Brown said Tuesday. In 2020 alone, the firm saw partner profits jump 11% and revenue increase to $1.5 billion.

The first four months of 2021 have been the best four months in the firm’s financial history, Van Gorp said.

“The fact that we’ve had this record four months, and that’s the start of the year, I feel like I couldn’t be in a better position right now, taking over the reins, because there is a lot of opportunity ahead of us,” he said.

He’ll have plenty of company as a freshly-minted Big Law leader taking over in 2021, with the shock of the pandemic fading and business booming.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Sidley Austin and Vinson & Elkins are among other major firms that have named new leaders since the start of the year, ready to capitalize on an unexpectedly strong 2020. A pandemic-driven drop in expenses helped drive double-digit growth in profits for U.S. law firms in 2020, according to a year-end survey from Wells Fargo Private Bank Legal Specialty Group.

The highest-grossing firms saw the biggest profit hike. Big law firms on average saw net income rise by 9.9%, but the top earners of the U.S. legal industry – the firms sitting in the first 50 slots of the Am Law 100, including Mayer Brown – grew net income by 12.7%, and their profits per equity partner rose by 11.2%.

Building on those gains, Van Gorp said Mayer Brown will prioritize expansion in New York, which he called a “key success story” thanks to rising demand for corporate work and the revenue it has generated. Van Gorp splits his time between Chicago and New York.

Although the firm is “opportunistic” in seeking out growth, he said it’s not immediately looking to open new offices, but rather to bolster its existing 26 locations. Along with New York, Van Gorp said the West Coast is a priority.

“A lot of the new economy is growing in Northern California, in technology, in particular, and we want to be a part of that,” he said.

Van Gorp joined Mayer Brown in 1997 following a three-year stint at Thompson & Knight.

Read more:

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David Thomas