By Jeff Jeffrey
After scoring one of the best financial year’s in its history in 2009, Crowell & Moring descended to earth a bit last year, according to the firms just-released revenue and profit numbers.
Grosses, the firm said, declined 3.4% to $327 million. Revenue per lawyer was also down – 4.5% to $742,000. The firm’s profits per equity partner also declined from $1.07 million in 2009 to $902,000 in 2010—a 15% decrease.
Crowell Chairman Kent Gardiner attributed 2009’s results, in part, to contingency fees and said that in 2010, the firm beat the budget it set at the beginning of the year. “We’re coming out of 2010 quite optimistic,” Gardiner said. “We didn’t have any big success-based fees come in, but we had a steady level of good work for our clients. We see that as a sign of the strength of the firm.”
Gardiner said that part of the reason the firm’s PPP was down is because the firm set aside a portion of the firm’s profits to give its staff members an additional bonus. “We felt that because they have ridden out the ups and downs of the economy with us, they deserved to have the firm invest in them.” The firm also set aside some of its profits to pay down debt and to increase the amount of capital it had on hand, Gardiner said.
Gardiner said that Crowell had a “strong showing” in all of its practices, but was especially successful in its litigation, transactional, regulatory, antitrust and government contracts practices. Gardiner said that litigation in particular did well for the firm and was bolstered by the firm’s San Francisco office. In November 2009, Crowell acquired Folger Levin & Kahn's litigation team in San Francisco. That acquisition gave the firm 29 lawyers and a foothold in the Bay Area.
Gardiner said that the firm plans to continue expanding its California litigation practice and will work to expand its 50-lawyer New York office.
Overall, Crowell’s headcount increased by five lawyers to 441 in 2010, marking a 1.2% uptick. Among the new additions were Mark Egert, who joined the firm in April after serving as managing director and chief compliance officer of Cowen Group; and Terrance Ross, who joined the firm’s intellectual property practice in Washington from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The firm also gained footholds in the Middle East with the concurrent additions of an affiliate office in Cairo, Egypt under the sponsorship of Hegazy & Associates, a Cairo-based law firm, and, an alliance with Al Enizy & Associates, a Saudi Arabian firm.
Among the notable cases handled by Crowell last year was the class action against the firm’s client AT&T that alleged that there were deficiencies in the company’s wireless phone or data transmission services. The firm scored a dismissal on behalf of AT&T in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The firm is representing nine coal companies named in the first climate change class action case brought against U.S. industries by Mississippi property owners alleging Hurricane Katrina-related damages. And Crowell is the lead firm representing tens of thousands of these late-filing black farmers as they seek long deferred relief for the alleged discrimination they suffered. After nearly two years of litigation, in February 2010, Crowell & Moring negotiated a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice, which is representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture that if approved, would give the farmers roughly $1.25 billion.