Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has emerged from the financial crisis as a smaller but perhaps more profitable law firm.
Profits per partner rose by 10.4%, to $1.6 million, in 2010, up from $1.5 million the year before, according to figures released by the firm to NLJ affiliate The American Lawyer. Akin Gump reported 2010 gross revenue of $736 million, an increase of 2.5% from the year before, although still below the $781 million the firm took in during 2008.
R. Bruce McLean, Akin Gump’s chairman, said the firm is seeing the benefits of a restructuring that began in 2008. It shed lawyers in less profitable practice areas, including more than 40 partners, and it made an effort to reduce non-lawyer staff. “While it was painful doing, the reshaping of the firm, the benefits are fairly clear in the results that we’ve obtained,” McLean said in an interview.
The firm says its corporate practice, particularly in mergers and acquisitions, was a major factor in its recent growth. It represented FirstEnergy Corp. in its acquisition of Allegheny Energy Inc., a deal worth $8.5 billion. It represented Cerberus Capital Management L.P. and telecommunications giant VimpelCom Ltd. in other 10-figure deals.
“We’ve done a pretty large number of multibillion-dollar transactions, and that helped in the overall results in our corporate practice,” McLean said. He also credited growth to the firm’s intellectual property litigation practice and its financial restructuring practice, which worked on the $9 billion restructuring of Nortel Networks Inc.
Akin Gump made some acquisitions itself in 2010. It hired away a team of lawyers, including partner Dianne Elderkin, from Philadelphia intellectual property firm Woodcock Washburn. Seven lawyers joined the firm in Geneva, leaving Hogan & Hartson upon its merger with Lovells.
In Washington, the firm acquired boutique lobbying shop Parven Pomper Strategies, and it brought on Al From, the founder of the Democratic Leadership Council, and former U.S. Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.). Akin Gump has a massive lobbying practice, ranked No. 1 in Washington in the most recent Influence 50 with $96.7 million in revenue in 2009.
This year, the firm will be without one of its most high-profile partners. Thomas Goldstein, who had been co-chairman of the firm’s appellate practice and is the founder of SCOTUSblog, announced last month that he’s departing the firm due to a client conflict. Goldstein is rejoining his prior firm, Howe & Russell.
McLean said the firm continued to try to find ways to cut costs in 2010. It is subletting some of its space in offices in California, New York and Washington. It also has scaled back its firm retreat, both in its scale and in reducing its frequency from every 12 months to every 18 months.
Revenue per lawyer at the Washington-centric firm rose by 3.6% in 2010, as the head count of lawyers, as measured by the NLJ 250 annual survey, fell by 1.1%. (Following a change in methodology for the 2011 Am Law 200, Akin Gump’s 2009 numbers have been recalculated to reflect a full-year head count. All year-on-year percentage changes are based on those recalculated numbers.)