Cadwalader doubles down on Wall Street amid market volatility
Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft is stepping up its growth strategy on Wall Street – even as banks see a pandemic wave of trading begin to subside – rather than joining rivals in pushing into new markets and locations.
Pat Quinn, the firm’s managing partner, calls it staying “on brand.” Cadwalader focuses on clients such as JP Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and other major financial institutions, corporations and funds.
“There are companies – some very successful, some maybe less successful – that have global dominance as their strategy,” Quinn said in an interview. “We’re going to be successful by doing our thing, doing it the best we can, rather than trying to borrow someone else’s strategy.”
The strategy comes with risks as financial clients must manage rising costs to retain employees, potentially the steepest monetary tightening cycle since the 1990s and stock market ups and downs. The expected rebound in borrowing activity has yet to materialize, while trading declines were larger than expected in the last three months of last year.
Quinn said the company was targeting practices and places where customers needed it, leading Cadwalader to a banner year in 2021.
The firm has advised on major real estate and other transactions, such as the $950 million refinancing of the 1290 Avenue of the Americas building in Manhattan, a $3 billion deal involving One Vanderbilt a few blocks south and the $630 million special purpose acquisition of Forbes Global Holdings. merger.
“We never have to explain anything about Cadwalader when we visit our financial institution clients, or when we visit a private equity fund, or when we visit a large public company “, said Quinn. “They all know us.”
Cadwalader, whose lineage dates back to 1792, making it one of Manhattan’s oldest law firms, saw revenue jump 35% to $609 million last year, and earnings per partner soared. jumped 72% to over $4 million.
It marked a rebound for Cadwalader, which had seen declines a year earlier as other companies enjoyed record trading activity.
Some companies have taken advantage of the market boom to expand new business in hotspots like California and Texas and set up shop in less expected places like Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado.
Some companies seem to be “everywhere there are customers” and aim to capture work and grow their businesses that way, but that’s not their strategy, Quinn said.
“We need to know who our customers are and we need to know why they will turn to Cadwalader,” Quinn said. “I think that’s what has been successful for us and will continue to be successful for us.”
go to trial
Cadwalader is also developing its litigation arm, with the aim of achieving a 60-40% split between transactional work and litigation work.
“Litigation fits perfectly into this strategy of bringing in very high quality litigators who work on the types of cases our clients would turn to Cadwalader for,” Quinn said.
Quinn, who took over as managing partner in 2015, added Nick Gravante, who now leads Cadwalader’s commercial litigation practice and is co-chair of its Global Litigation Group, and other former Boies Schiller lawyers. Philip Iovieno, Karen Dyer and Lawrence Brandman at the start of the last year.
He said construction began in 2016 when the firm rehired former partner Jason Halper of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, who is now co-chair of Cadwalader’s global litigation group. Three years later, the firm brought in Sean O’Shea, a former Brooklyn federal prosecutor who chairs Cadwalader’s trial practice group.
In the past year, the company has represented Kraft Heinz Food Co. in antitrust litigation and McDonald’s Corp. in a lawsuit accusing Tyson Foods Inc., Perdue Farms Inc. and other poultry producers of conspiring to fix chicken prices.
Gravante also reportedly represented Matthew Calamari, the chief operating officer of the Trump Organization, which was being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney.
Unlike some other Wall Street firms, Cadwalader is ready to be judged and open to taking on the role of plaintiff in the right situation, said Quinn, who started at the firm as a summer partner more than a year ago. three decades. Litigation currently represents approximately 30% of the firm’s activity.
seek to grow
Gravante unsuccessfully pushed for a merger between Boies Schiller and Cadwalader before jumping businesses. Cadwalader was also reportedly in talks at some level about a potential tie-up with King & Spalding in 2016.
Quinn said the firm is open to growing its litigation group through acquisition, but said it currently has no specific plans to do so.
The firm also has no interest in joining Big Law’s race to plant a flag in various cities across the country.
“We want to be the best Cadwalader guy, not the best Sullivan & Cromwell guy,” Quinn said.
Cadwalader’s five offices are located in New York, Washington, DC, Charlotte, North Carolina, London and Dublin.
“We’ve always believed that you had to be in certain places because your customers needed you,” Quinn said. “But other than that, there was no reason to be anywhere in the world and I think that continues to be true.”
The growing demand for legal work has sparked a new recruiting war for lawyers, especially among business associates.
Cadwalader was one of the first law firms to announce last month that it was matching Milbank’s new partner pay scale, which raises the $10,000 salary for first-year partners to $215,000. Mid-level and senior associates saw their salaries increase by $20,000 to $385,000, for the most experienced lawyers.
Quinn called the decision to raise salaries “pretty easy,” but he added the company needs to do more than keep up with market-leading pay rates in the war for talent. There must be a sense that the firm is investing in its lawyers, going beyond formal training programs, he said.
Quinn cited the company’s sponsorship program, which aims to improve diversity in Cadwalder’s senior ranks through hands-on mentorship and targeted training.
“He’s someone who takes responsibility for making sure you keep getting the best job – by continuing to get increasingly challenging assignments on high-profile, challenging topics – and making sure that when you’re doing a great job you’re getting credit for that,” Quinn said.
About 6% of company partner promotions were women or non-white before the program was implemented in 2013, Quinn said. This figure has since risen to around 50%.
In January, the firm had one of its largest promotions in 15 years, raising nine new partners and 23 new promotions of lawyers. The group is 47% diversified, according to Cadwalader.
New partners and the firm’s more than 400 lawyers will continue to have a lot of work to do, Quinn said. Despite some economic uncertainty, inflation fears and a possible rise in interest rates, Cadwalader does not foresee a slowdown.
“Honestly, from what we can see on the horizon, it looks like it’s going to be another busy year,” Quinn said.