2021 Annual Review

2021
Annual Review

What's inside

Highlights of our work, insights and achievements in a changing world

A message from our Chair

Hugh Verrier

Hugh Verrier
Chair

In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect nearly every aspect of our lives. Against this backdrop, our global teams worked on groundbreaking transactions, resolved high-stakes disputes and, through our global citizenship initiatives, responded to societal challenges around the world.

The role of business in society evolved as environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues entered the mainstream, concentrating on challenges including the energy transition and achieving greater diversity and inclusion. Like our clients, we looked for ways to create long term value and growth—a shared goal that created opportunities for collaboration.

It was in this context that we launched a new five-year strategy, focused on creating a distinctive experience for our clients.

Our emphasis on complex, cross-border matters helped us grow in all of the regions where we work and achieve outstanding results for our clients. As we look to the next five years, we are committed to building the capabilities our clients need, supported by a strong, resilient culture.


Hugh Verrier, Chair

Conversations

Guest speakers at Firm events talk about issues that made news in 2021


Bright, colorful electric lights inside empty COVID-19 vaccine containers shine beside more empty containers, which are stacked to resemble a Christmas tree
Andreea Alexandru © Associated Press

What have we learned from COVID-19?

Epidemiologist Syra Madad says it’s critical to engage with local communities

Read 5 min. article
Hills, covered with vegetation, stretch toward the horizon, where clouds and sky are visible. At the center of the image, a winding road cuts through the hills heading in the direction of the horizon.
Sholikhul Bakhmid © Getty Images

Institutional investors take the long view on sustainability

Think tank CEO Chris Pinney is encouraged by moves to focus on impact, not just policies and procedures

Read 5 min. article
A person takes a daytime walk across a bridge that crosses the Seine River in Paris. The surface of the bridge features a large, vividly colored world map against a dark background. Another person on the bridge stands beside a bicycle.
Keith Ladzinski © Bespoke Reps Licensing

In the wake of the pandemic, the world must chart a new course

Bill Emmott, who co-leads a nonprofit that studies the far-reaching effects of COVID-19, discusses the importance of business scenario planning

Read 5 min. article
Two electrical engineers wearing protective gear stand between the blades at the top of a wind turbine in Thailand. Far below them, the land is densely forested. Another wind turbine sits in the distance and mountains are on the horizon.
Tunvarat Pruksachat © Getty Images

A range of tactics is needed to achieve a lower-carbon world

Countries and companies are increasingly committing to net-zero goals that would require them to significantly reduce carbon emissions on relatively short timelines 

Read 6 min. article
An aerial view of a mostly empty eight-lane highway in Beijing. A median divides the highway. One vehicle travels in one direction, and two travel in the other. Groves of trees surround the highway.
Liyao Xie / Moment © Getty Images

Environmental, social and governance factors enter the mainstream

The pandemic accelerated global concerns over climate change and inequality, pushing societal expectations around responsible business practices into the spotlight

Read 5 min. article
An arrow points to the right against a background of different colored dots.
Simon Carter © Getty Images

Buoyant capital markets help fuel dealmaking

Most of 2021 was characterized by free-flowing capital, as government aid in response to COVID-19 propped up economies

Read 4 min. article
A person, with their back to the camera, sits at a desk in front of two computer monitors. The monitor on the right shows a world map that uses bright color to represent demographics, infrastructure, borders and resources. Similarly colored graphs are partially visible on the monitor to the left.
Andrey Popov © Getty Images / Map by Parag Khanna, FutureMap

Policy shifts may signal a new chapter in the story of globalization

Globalization may be evolving, as nations and regions reassert their regulatory powers on a wide range of issues

Read 10 min. article

Impact

Matters in eight practice areas that highlight our global impact for clients

Firm growth

Our 2021 achievements cap an outstanding five-year success story


Our growth trajectory

Growth trajectory
20% 2021 growth
59% 2016-2021 growth

Our lawyers worldwide

2,464 Total lawyers


1,233 EMEA
974 Americas
257 Asia-Pacific

1,283 US-qualified lawyers
544 English-qualified lawyers

 

An aerial view shows rows of different varieties of lettuce planted in the ground. The lettuce varieties are different colors, and form horizontal stripes.
© Veronika K Ko Photography

2021 new partners

An outstanding roster of talented lawyers strengthened our Firm in 2021

Read 1 min. article
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Westend61 © Getty Images

2021 awards & rankings

White & Case earned many of the legal industry’s top accolades for outstanding performance in 2021 

Read 3 min. article

Our responsible business practices

White & Case is committed to fair and ethical operations that respect human rights and recognize the importance of our natural environment.

As a signatory to the UN Global Compact we affirm our commitment to doing business responsibly by supporting the Compact’s ten principles on human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption. The steps we are taking to continue to embed these principles into our Firm are outlined in our most recent Communication on Progress

Our latest Environmental Sustainability Report includes information on our environmental policies, footprint, key actions and goals.  

Renewable energy is approximately 35% of our electricity usage (up from 11% in 2018)
We track our greenhouse gas emissions annually
Each office implements actions set out in our Environmental Management System
Our London office maintains ISO 14001 certification

Diversity and inclusion

Where White & Case is a longtime leader — and we're just getting started.


Our diverse workplace

10 global affinity networks

Our ten global affinity networks foster a sense of community among the Firm’s Black, Asian, Latinx/Hispanic, Middle Eastern, minority ethnic and LGBT+ lawyers, business services professionals and their allies. Each network sets its own agenda, initiatives and goals, which are specific to the issues it feels are most important. Affinity networks also create and enhance awareness of these groups within the Firm and its larger culture, drive community and connection across our global offices, and support their members with career and professional development opportunities.

26 local women’s networks

Our 26 local women’s networks are active in 40 offices across the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. These networks foster professional development and mentoring activities, and support business-related client partnerships. They also provide a forum for our lawyers and business services professionals to share perspectives and create programs to support and retain our talent while fostering and promoting gender equity.

 

Diversity: The numbers

Women make up:
40% of the Firm’s global management
25% of the Executive Committee
26% of our Office Executive Partners

31% of our 2021 global partner promotions
22% of global partnership
41% of our lawyers

In the US:
38% of our lawyers self-identify as of color
25% of our partners self-identify as of color

Globally:
114 nationalities
91 languages spoken

Recognition

For more than a decade, leading publications and alliance organizations have recognized White & Case’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. 

#1 Most Diverse Law Firm in Am Law 50 (eighth consecutive year)

The American Lawyer
Diversity Scorecard 2021

100% rating on commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workplace equality (13th consecutive year)

Identifying the Firm as one of the best places to work for LGBT+ individuals

Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index

Minority Women Lawyers – International Firm of the Year

Work-life balance – International Firm of the Year

Euromoney Legal Media Group
Women in Business Law Awards (Europe 2021)

2021 Mansfield Rule Certification Plus (third consecutive year)

Diversity Lab

Top 75 employer in the UK

Social Mobility Foundation
2020 Employer Index Report

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Esch Collection © Getty Images

Anti-racism training equips our people with tools to build a more inclusive firm

We continued to advance toward our diversity and inclusion goals, narrowing the gap between thought and action with new trainings

Read 1 min. article

Collaborating with clients around the world


 

World map
6 continents
45 offices
31 countries
In 2021, we advised clients from 
115
countries 
on matters in 
196
countries

 

A closeup shows architectural details of a ceiling in Shanghai. It appears as if three-dimensional columns of blocks hang from the ceiling and reflect light.
Keith Ladzinksi © Bespoke Reps

White & Case connects clients to help build a more sustainable world

Like our clients, we are seeking ways to sustainably create long-term value and growth, a shared goal that presents opportunities to collaborate 

Read 1 min. article
Triangular panels of glass create a wall. Light shows through some of the panels, making them appear brighter. Through a panel at the center, bright colors form an abstract pattern.
Keith Ladzinksi © Bespoke Reps

New Firm strategy spotlights the client experience

We set out to ensure we provide our clients with an experience that emphasizes the attributes they seek in a trusted advisor

Read 1 min. article
Top
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Buoyant capital markets help fuel dealmaking

Insight
4 min read

Most of 2021 was characterized by free-flowing capital, as government aid propped up economies in response to COVID-19. Low interest rates and other central bank stimulus measures contributed to an environment that helped see many companies through challenging times. But as 2022 neared, governments were set to withdraw aid and inflation had risen, creating uncertainty. 

Against this evolving backdrop, we advised our clients, including banks, alternative capital providers, listed corporations, startups and sovereigns, on a range of financing transactions, restructurings, workouts and regulatory matters, and represented them in litigation. Below are some of the developments that drove business. 

Better options for more companies 

After soaring in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, US corporate bankruptcies fell to historic lows in 2021. One of the pandemic’s first and most high-profile chapter 11 cases wrapped up in 2021 with Hertz emerging from bankruptcy with a lower cost of capital and a structure that afforded stability and greater profitability than before. In Europe, restructurings were down significantly compared to 2020. 

As governments and central banks around the world pumped money into their economies in the wake of COVID-19 and interest rates sat at near zero, companies that faced financial challenges were able to refinance or take on more debt. Others avoided bankruptcies and full-blown restructurings through a liability management exercise. But rising inflation and the possibility of higher interest rates will add to the challenges for financially distressed companies. 

Leveraged financing activity surges 

Global leveraged financing activity spiked in 2021, driven largely by refinancing and repricing during the first half of the year, and M&A and buyout activity in the second. Across regions, interest in a range of sustainability-linked debt products also hit new highs. 

In the US, leveraged financing issuance was up overall. Loan activity drove the uptick, climbing from US$861.7 billion in 2020 to US$1.4 trillion in 2021. High yield bond issuance held steady, rising just slightly from US$428.3 billion to US$429.7 billion. Putting these numbers into context, high yield bond issuance hit a five-year high in 2020, and 2021 issuance remained well above pre-pandemic levels. 

Europe saw year-on-year leveraged loan issuance climb by more than a quarter in 2021, to €289.7 billion in 2021. The region’s high yield bond markets were even more enthusiastic, with issuance for the year hitting €148 billion, up 47 percent over 2020. 

And in the Asia-Pacific region (data excludes Japan), debt markets saw strong growth. Combined high yield bond and leveraged and non-leveraged loan issuance rose from US$422.3 billion in 2020, to US$498 billion in 2021. These gains occurred despite ongoing pandemic-induced disruptions in China’s real estate market, which were offset by a resilient loan market and revived PE activity. 

SPAC market matures and continues to thrive 

SPAC IPOs, which contributed to the global IPO boom that began in early 2021, had another strong year. The market for these deals, in which a company with no business operations is formed solely to raise capital through an IPO to acquire an existing company, cooled following a record first quarter. But this was foreseeable given the unsustainable pace at which these companies were being formed. In addition, SPAC sponsors and investors may have grown more cautious as the prospect of possible SEC regulation loomed. Still, by the end of 2021, 610 US SPACs had raised US$153.22 billion, up from the 245 deals that raised US$80.37 billion in 2020. 

As more and more SPACs came of age, de-SPAC transactions, in which the SPAC merges with the target company, also soared in the US. In 2021, 221 de-SPAC transactions were valued at US$403.63 billion, compared to 92 such transactions worth US$139.18 billion in 2020. While SPACs remained largely a US phenomenon, global interest grew. The trend took off in Israel, which saw a boom in SPACs, as US-registered cash shells began scooping up assets and the Israeli Securities Authority set ground rules to open up the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to local SPACs. 

In Europe, SPAC activity was relatively modest but on the rise. The overall number and value of deals climbed steadily, with listings on key markets including Amsterdam and Frankfurt. In addition, deal sizes hit new highs and EU and UK regulators weighed in. The SPAC wave also reached the Asia-Pacific region where jurisdictions including Singapore and Hong Kong introduced their own regimes to capitalize on the momentum.


Photo by Simon Carter © Getty Images
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