Annual Review 2019
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Creating a resilient law firm

Even before analysts began predicting an economic downturn, White & Case took steps to ensure the Firm’s ongoing success through tough times

More than a year ago, the White & Case Executive Committee, together with several senior leaders throughout the Firm’s People, Technology, Marketing, Finance and other teams, began assessing how we could maintain a competitive edge during the next economic downturn.

White & Case has grown sizably in the United States pursuant to its five-year plan launched in 2015, making the Firm more profitable and, in turn, better protected against a downturn’s effects

David Koschik, Vice Chair, New York

Studying the last recession’s economic impact on the Firm, we found the effects varied substantially by practice and location. We reviewed actions taken by peer firms, and considered how they affected their results. In addition, we closely analyzed the steps White & Case took on headcount reductions, cost savings and other initiatives, the timing of those actions and their ultimate impact.

Our analysis revealed that non-transactional practices such as Antitrust, Commercial Litigation, Financial Restructuring and Insolvency and Intellectual Property were countercyclical, continuing to perform well during and after the recession, and that downsizing and cost savings measures had taken much longer to implement than expected.

Next, we looked at changes to the Firm over the past ten years, recognizing that White & Case will be a different firm when we face the next downturn. In 2014, the Firm opened our Tampa Global Operations Center in Florida and substantially grew our Manila Global Operations Center in the Philippines, permanently reducing costs. We also recently refinanced and extended our credit facilities so we wouldn’t face that challenge during a recession. In addition, White & Case grew sizably in the US pursuant to its five-year plan launched in 2015, making the Firm more profitable and, in turn, better protected against a downturn’s effects.

Finally, using 2008 – 2009 as a benchmark, we ran stress tests to model a variety of scenarios on today’s White & Case. Scenarios ranged from a Great Recession–type impact to a shallower, shorter recession. Based on those models, we developed steps to help counter a slowdown, some of which we have already implemented. For example, we are boosting recruiting in countercyclical practices. And we reviewed our real estate arrangements in our 40-plus offices to ensure we are not long on office space.

While it’s often difficult to imagine a downturn when business is thriving, history teaches that a well-prepared law firm best serves its people and its clients.

A version of this article was published in Bloomberg Law.


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