2020: Grit in the Face of Uncertainty 

The year 2020 was unlike any other. In the face of the pandemic, Hughes Hubbard demonstrated the grit necessary to successfully navigate the difficult and ever-evolving business, public health and political climates. 

Our clients turned to us for guidance on a broad array of important matters, ranging from multi-billion dollar business combinations, financings and restructurings to some of the most significant and widely reported investigations, arbitrations and litigations around the world. We continued to act for our clients in distinctive and transformational matters despite the unprecedented obstacles. 

By the end of the year, our teams’ passion and perseverance yielded results. We believe revenue per lawyer (RPL) is the most important of the metrics The American Lawyer tracks because we see it as a measure of the health of the whole firm, not just the partnership. Our RPL was the highest in a decade and surpassed $1M for the tenth year in a row. Total partner compensation was up 26%. Another metric we are particularly proud of: diverse lawyers now make up 18% of our partnership, up from 15% a year ago. We have more to do in that regard; we are taking deliberate steps in the right direction and seeing results.

How did we achieve this? First and foremost we leaned into our greatest strength: our firm culture. Developed over our 130 year history, our culture, where all of our partners know and trust each other, enabled creative collaboration and nimbleness across our firm. Our management team met the uncertain challenges of escalating COVID-19 cases, business closures and wildly variable economic projections by making some tough decisions, based on the best information we had at the time, to keep the firm on solid footing, confident in our ability to serve clients. So when our litigation teams were met with court closures, they quickly adapted to virtual depositions and, eventually, hearings. Our corporate teams immediately pivoted to assist clients in securing cash infusions due to the effects of the pandemic and we were at the ready for the uptick in M&A activity led by the record setting number of SPAC transactions. 

Our Path Forward

In 2015, we set out a five-year strategic plan to diversify our revenue stream and re-balance our work portfolio and our core practices in a concerted effort to decrease our reliance on a handful of large client mandates. We wanted to do this without sacrificing profitability and revenue per lawyer. That plan worked. And while change did not happen overnight, we have seen – and continue to see – consistency in our continued success, even in light of the fact that we weathered complications from a pandemic. 

We are off to a very strong start in 2021 across our platform. Looking ahead, it’s an exciting time as we are actively growing our capabilities in a number of areas that we expect will expand significantly: antitrust, commercial disputes, our Latin America practice, and our China practice. Our M&A and aviation finance teams have started the year even stronger than last year and as courts have come back on line, our litigation and arbitration work is roaring back.

We’ve just spent our 14th year on The American Lawyer’s A-List as one of “the top firms among the nation’s legal elite,” and, while the ranking considers revenue, it also accounts for cultural markers like pro bono work, associate satisfaction, and diversity. 

Today, Hughes Hubbard is thriving. We are doing excellent work, getting excellent results for our clients, and we do that because we love it. That’s who we are. We are financially sound, and who we are matters to us. We are working hard on diversity and we take care of our communities. We are proud of our team, and our arms are open to those who can see for themselves a role within it.

Ted Mayer