Elite New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell has unveiled two vice-presidents to succeed boss Joseph Shenker in a rare reshuffle at the top of the 142-year-old practice.
S&C, one of the world’s most profitable law firms, has appointed lawyer Robert Giuffra and his business partner Scott Miller as its first co-chairs. Mr. Shenker, who turns 65 this year, will pass the baton “after a smooth transition”.
It’s a pivotal moment for a company that rarely changes leadership – Mr. Shenker has served as its chairman since 2010 – and is considered one of the most powerful business advisers in the world. Former lawyers at the firm include Jay Clayton, head of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission until December.
Its equity partners made an average of $ 4.7 million in 2019 and it is part of a group of leading US companies to disrupt the London legal market with successful salaries.
The vice-presidential appointments come as S&C navigates the fallout from Covid-19, civil unrest in the United States and a political paradigm shift following the election of Joe Biden as president.
Mr Shenker, who became the firm’s youngest partner at 29, told the Financial Times it had been “a year of 10 plagues. . . If someone had said a year ago today that we would be going through a pandemic and survived as well as we did, I would have said they were crazy.
“It was the most stressful year of my life. But it was also the most uplifting year of my life to see people come together, pivot to work from home, and continue to navigate a pandemic, civil injustice and stressful elections.
S&C has appointed Co-Vice Presidents due to the increasingly complex nature of the legal market and the fact that its bosses are expected to continue to serve clients while managing the firm.
Mr Giuffra is known to have represented automaker Volkswagen in class actions stemming from the emissions scandal, while Mr Miller acts for Fiat Chrysler, including working on its $ 50 billion merger. with Peugeot last year.
S&C is low-key about the inner workings, including compensation and finances. But the firm, which has more than 875 lawyers, generated $ 1.5 billion in revenue in 2019 and ranks fourth among the most profitable firms in the world, according to data compiled by American Lawyer magazine. Mr. Shenker said he was “satisfied” with the performance of the company during the year.
Like its rivals, it faced an environment of slower growth and “carefully managed” its number of equity partners to maintain profitability.
The company has operated in London for almost 30 years and Mr Shenker said the UK capital has not lost its appeal after Brexit, citing specific legal services provisions in the trade deal. The office is the second largest and has grown over the past four years. But the firm move to Brussels in 2017 was partly motivated by Brexit.
S&C was part of a group of US companies that disrupted the UK legal market with major salary deals for junior and senior lawyers that UK rivals have struggled to match. Newly qualified salaries have since surpassed £ 100,000 at the high end of the market, while Chicago-based companies like Kirkland & Ellis have poached star partners by offering multi-million pound pay packages.
Mr Shenker said: “Without a doubt, the focus is more on [money]. What companies have done in terms of raiding other companies with high paying package deals has certainly spread. . . It’s the pressures and it’s not going to stop.