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November 16, 2020

Despite challenging environment, law firm McCarter & English sees record-breaking revenue year

HBJ Photo | Sean Teehan Moy Ogilvie is managing partner of law firm McCarter & English’s Hartford office.

It’s been a tough year for many small and midsize businesses, as the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn wreaked havoc on companies’ top and bottom lines.

But that wasn’t the case for law firm McCarter & English. In fact, 2020 turned out to be a record-breaking revenue year for the firm, which is based in New Jersey but has a major office in Hartford.

In fiscal year 2020, which ended Sept. 30, McCarter & English grew revenue per partner by 14%, as two of its main practice areas — real estate and employment law — saw increased demand amid the pandemic.

The firm, which has 44 attorneys and 23 partners in Connecticut, reported $254 million in overall revenues.

“I think that everyone has been pretty busy [with clients],” said Moy Ogilvie, managing partner of McCarter’s Hartford office.

Joe Boccassini, National Managing Partner, McCarter & English

The strong year allowed McCarter & English to finish fiscal 2020 without any furloughs or layoffs, said Joe Boccassini, the firm’s national managing partner. It also hired at the same pace it did in 2019.

That bodes well for next year, he said.

“All our practice areas actually experienced growth year-over-year,” Boccassini said. “We’re very optimistic for the coming year.”

Amy Lin Meyerson, President, Connecticut Bar Association

Boccassini’s bullishness is likely well-placed, considering the entire legal industry is experiencing spikes in demand for representation in legal disputes about evictions, bankruptcies and other pandemic-related issues. That’s likely to continue into 2021, said Amy Lin Meyerson, president of the Connecticut Bar Association.

“We’re going to see a lot of people needing help,” Meyerson said.

One practice area that’s likely to see significant demand is bankruptcy litigation. Nearly 60,000 Paycheck Protection Program loans worth $6.7 billion were dispensed to Connecticut companies this year, keeping many small businesses afloat. As that money runs out, more companies are likely to face a cash crunch and need to restructure their debt.

Nationally, the number of Ch. 11 bankruptcies filed in 2020 has outpaced 2019’s numbers every month since March, according to data compiled by the American Bankruptcy Institute. In September, 747 companies filed for Ch. 11 vs. 420 a year ago.

Additionally, the federal CARES Act — which passed in March — includes a feature that expands the number of small businesses eligible for a relatively new type of Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection that is less costly and quicker than the traditional reorganization process.

The Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 established rules that allow companies with debts of $2.7 million or less to apply for so-called subchapter V of the Ch. 11 bankruptcy code. The CARES Act expands those new protections to businesses with up to $7.5 million in debt, but only until March 26. That could result in a deluge of Ch. 11 filings in the early part of 2021.

Rolan Joni Young, Attorney, McCarter & English

Meanwhile, McCarter’s uptick in real estate work has occurred amid more property acquisitions and development in the state, particularly related to industrial, residential and mixed-use projects, said McCarter attorney Rolan Joni Young.

“We’ve been working on a mix of large-scale affordable housing developments and medical office space,” Young said. “Transaction sizes vary from a low of $18 million to in excess of $50 million in total development costs, and are located in both urban and suburban areas across the state.”

Jeff Matrullo, Attorney, McCarter & English

Attorney Jeff Matrullo said he’s seeing more prospective buyers interested in properties that could be used as warehouse and distribution space, which he thinks is at least partly driven by the pandemic.

“That increase [in buyer interest], already well underway because of e-commerce, only accelerated because of people staying home due to COVID,” Matrullo said. “Over the past year, I have represented clients in multiple sales of industrial and warehouse type projects.”

Pro bono work

Beyond growing existing business, the law firm recently launched its McCarter & English Social Justice Project, which Ogilvie co-chairs. The initiative combines McCarter’s diversity and inclusion and pro bono practice areas to take on cases that combat the impact of racial injustice in local communities.

As part of that initiative, the firm sent a group of attorneys to a Georgia immigrant detention center this summer to provide pro bono representation in conjunction with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Ogilvie said.

McCarter isn’t alone in digging into pro bono work, said Meyerson of the Connecticut Bar Association.

“We do find there has been increased attention to social justice issues, and we’ve been encouraging attorneys to also engage in pro bono services,” Meyerson said.

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