It’s a rare privilege

It’s a rare privilege to see a candid discussion of a major firm’s strategy in the press, so I urge you to run to this piece in The New York Law Journal, essentially an interview with Rohan Weerasinghe, Shearman & Sterling’s new chairman, about the challenges he faces as S&S starts to pull out of a four-year period of, as Weerasinghe puts it, having “done well but not as well as our peer firms” and calling those years a period “of significant turmoil.”

Weerasinghe, 55, was born in Sri Lanka but has been at S&S for nearly 30 years, arriving in 1977 with his bachelors’, law degree, and MBA all from Harvard, and by all accounts has been a gifted strategic thinker from the beginning.   He’s going to need every bit of it given the clear challenges facing the firm, but from the evidence of the interview he would probably agree with that observation.  In other words, he’s already on his way.

First, let’s review the bidding.  In 2000, S&S’s PPP of $1.35-million put it solidly in league with its peer group—Davis Polk, Simpson Thacher, Sullivan & Cromwell, et. al.   But 2001 saw a 30% falloff to $980,000, as Wall Street hit a wall and S&S was even forced to lay off 10% of its associates that fall.  In fact, it took until this past year for PPP to resume significant growth, finally topping 2000 for the first time (and up 22% year over year) at $1.4-million.

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