‘Healthier’ Boies Schiller Sees Shrinking Size Boost Profits

Boies Schiller Flexner is embracing its new market position as the litigation firm sorts out a future beyond its powerful leader.

The law firm is about half the size it was just five years ago. A net loss of 170 lawyers, including several rainmakers, prompted a corresponding plunge in gross revenue. But the firm’s profits per equity partner ticked back up last year as its ranks trimmed.

“The reduction in headcount has made us healthier,” Matthew L. Schwartz, a BSF co-managing partner, said in an interview.

The firm posted gross revenue of $220 million last year, down 4.3% from 2021, according to figures shared with Bloomberg Law. Its profits per equity partner rose to about $2.5 million over the year, a roughly 13% increase.

Long identified with David Boies, the famed litigator and a co-founder, Boies Schiller has been forced to deal with a string of notable departures in recent years. It’s also faced lingering questions about who may one day take the reins.

The firm’s current crop of leaders is now touting the slimmed down version. Schwartz said Boies Schiller is “at or close to where we want to be” as a 150-lawyer operation.

It’s also on the verge of an influx of cash.

Boies Schiller is expected to get a significant chunk of the $667 million in legal fees awarded to lawyers in a class action against Blue Cross Blue Shield. Those lawyers helped craft a $2.7 billion settlement in the case.

The settlement is being challenged in court, but Schwartz said the firm can “essentially count on” a substantial recovery coming in the door.

‘Good Place’

Founded by David Boies and Jonathan Schiller in the 1990s, Boies Schiller grew to a litigation powerhouse in the ensuing decades.

The firm’s ranks later thinned amid questions about who would succeed Boies, the now 82-year-old chairman. A wave of departures came as he faced criticism over his work for disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and Elizabeth Holmes, the Theranos founder who was convicted of fraud.

Boies Schiller’s headcount is now less than half of the 320 lawyers working at the firm four years ago. Its total number of equity partners has dipped to 29 from 55 over the same period.

Notable exits include Natasha Harrison, the firm’s former deputy chair, who took nearly the entire London office with her, and Peter Skinner, the New York-based head of its white collar group.

David Boies and Jonathan Schiller outside a US Bankruptcy Court in New York on Aug. 27, 2010.

Photo: Louis Lanzano/Bloomberg

Schwartz joined in 2015 following a decade as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan. He said the firm is in a stronger position today than it has been in years.

Founders Boies and Schiller—Donald Flexner, the third name partner, died at 81 in March—continue to have an active practice. But the percentage of business coming from the pair is steadily dropping year-over-year, according to Schwartz.

He highlighted the firm’s $1.5 million in revenue per lawyer last year, which is the highest in at least a decade, according to data from The American Lawyer.

“It’s important that there be organic growth, but this is a number at which people are generating revenue,” he said. “That’s a good place to be.”

Schwartz also said the firm has started to build back the London office, growing from three to 10 attorneys in the last year.

‘Starts and Stops’

The firm has cycled through lawyers seen as heir apparent to Boies, its longtime chairman. He was re-elected to the top position in December, during the firm’s annual partnership meeting.

Harrison, who now runs her own boutique litigation shop, was once touted as an eventual successor for the leadership role. So was Nicholas Gravante, who left for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft after unsuccessfully pushing for a merger with the firm.

Boies has stepped back from day-to-day operations, according to Schwartz, while continuing to take cases. He’s represented victims of sex-trafficking by financier Jeffrey Epstein and recently filed a proposed class action targeting celebrity backers of FTX, the defunct crypto exchange.

Schiller continues to serve on the executive committee.

Schwartz is one of three co-managing partners leading day-to-day firm management, alongside partners Sigrid McCawley and Alan Vickery.

Schwartz said the firm doesn’t plan to name a new successor-in-waiting.

“The next generation of leaders has to find their own way to do it—that is less about the specific personalities and more about the institution,” said Schwartz. “After some starts and stops, we’ve landed on a structure and people that work. We feel good.”

Bessie Venters

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