The livestreamed US defamation trial of actor Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard dominated the internet for just over a month. But the passionate Google search also threw the spotlight on his law firm, Brown Rudnick.
Now the 146th largest law firm in the US by revenue is capitalizing on its newfound online fame by planning an expansion in London.
“London is really the real focal point for our international expansion. Our focus is to grow the office there organically and through cross-hiring,” Vincent Guglielmotti, the firm’s new CEO, told Financial News.
Brown Rudnick is the 39th largest US law firm in London and Guglielmotti says he is keen for the firm to expand under his leadership, identifying the financial centers of London and New York as key to his growth plans.
He brushes off worries about the impact of Brexit and competition from rival financial centers on London’s competitiveness.
“Our experience has shown that London continues to be a financial powerhouse. We’ve seen an increase in technology and life sciences clients and the capital markets are still strong, so I have no qualms about expanding further in London,” he says.
The company employs around 100 of the company’s almost 500 employees in its London office.
Recent additions to Brown Rudnick in London include former Baker Botts and Linklaters energy partner James Douglass, who joined the firm in July. In January, sanctions and compliance partner Jeffrey Cottle joined Norton Rose Fulbright.
Depp’s messy court battle with Heard was closely watched by thousands on social media platforms including Twitch, TikTok and YouTube.
A jury ruled in favor of Depp on June 1 on three counts of defamation against his former wife, who had accused him of being a domestic abuser. Heard prevailed in a defamation lawsuit. Both Depp and Heard are appealing elements of the decision.
The trial was a social media sensation as viewers brooded over every detail, from the dress and hairstyle of the trial parties to what they drank in the courtroom.
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That scrutiny also extended to Depp’s nine-strong Brown Rudnick legal team, with real-time attention to the case triggering a flood of search engine queries about the firm and its attorneys.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted the cultural impact and how widely the case was followed,” Guglielmotti told FN.
Google searches for topics like “Brown Rudnick” and “Johnny Depp Legal Team” — as well as individual lawyers on the team like Ben Chew and Camille Vasquez — spiked during the trial, according to Google Trends data.
Data from Google Trends showed that searches for Brown Rudnick peaked between June 4 and June 10, following the conclusion of the US trial.
“Brown Rudnick”, “Depp Legal Team”, “Camille Vasquez Lawyer” and “Brown Rudnick Johnny Depp” were all categorized as “breakout” searches on Google Trends.
This means they were terms that, according to Google Trends, had experienced a “huge surge in search frequency,” indicating the extent to which the Depp case has exposed the firm and its attorneys to the public.
As the firm plans to expand into London — its largest office outside the US — Guglielmotti hopes the visibility of the firm’s attorneys during the trial will pitch their offer to potential recruits.
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Overall, the firm aims to increase revenue from the current $230 million to over $300 million and increase the number of attorneys from 250 to around 300 under the leadership of the new CEO.
Guglielmotti — a former college baseball player — says expanding the company is his big focus for his tenure as CEO.
“My efforts right now are focused on making sure the company is moving forward, as well as making sure I show up at my kids’ sporting events,” he says.
Guglielmotti hopes he can recruit rising stars to help fuel this expansion.
“I’m pleased that we got the coverage and how we got it, because people could see that we’re a great company for young, ambitious talent,” he says.
Brown Rudnick promoted 38-year-old Vasquez to partner in July in recognition of her success on the case.
“We saw a great performance, she was already partnered… so why wait? When you see great results like this, you should be rewarded,” says Guglielmotti.
The company’s CEO says those who followed the trial online were able to see what their colleagues at Brown Rudnick already knew about Vasquez.
“She’s collaborative, she’s hardworking, she’s very intelligent and she’s done a great job under very difficult circumstances,” says Guglielmotti of the firm’s newest partner.
“It was a difficult case, it was on TV, so we were all very proud of her performance and proud of all the prep work she did,” he adds.
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“It’s great to see how hard work pays off,” he says. “She put in the time and performed when it was time to perform.”
Promotion of the firm has also led to more applications from juniors, with Guglielmotti saying he has noticed a “noticeable increase in employee interest in the firm”.
Brown Rudnick did not want to give more precise figures.
“I hope it’s because the talent sees that we’re a company where hard work is rewarded and opportunities abound, so we’re very excited about applications,” says Guglielmotti.
Guglielmotti, 41, a New York tax partner, says his own election as Brown Rudnick’s youngest chief executive in June is exemplary of the firm’s approach to empowering younger attorneys.
“Hard work is rewarded and there are no artificial barriers. If it were, I wouldn’t be here,” he says.
To contact the author of this story with feedback or updates, email James Booth