Updated 5:35 p.m.
Washington-based law firms showed a solid increase in gross revenues during 2011, according to the latest Am Law 100 survey, released Friday.
Nine D.C.-based firms landed on the list this year, with all showing modest revenue increases, with the exception of Hogan Lovells, which posted the same gross revenues as in 2010. Six Washington-based firms posted revenue increases greater than 5 percent, including Covington & Burling, growing by 5.1 percent to $611 million; Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, which grew by 7.4 percent to $342 million; Williams & Connolly, up by 5 percent to $317.5 million; Steptoe & Johnson LLP, which rose by 9.1 percent to $376.5 million; Venable, which grew by 5.3 percent to $355.5 million; and Arnold & Porter, which grew by 15.2 percent to $639.5 million, topping the list of D.C.-based firms in terms of gross revenue growth rate.
Crowell & Moring and Patton Boggs’ revenue each inched up .6 percent, Crowell to $329.5 million and Patton to $339.5 million.
“I think the firm felt like it had solid economics and modest growth and did so in an environment where maintaining your position is the new up,” said Kent Gardiner, Crowell & Moring chairman. “There is so much pricing pressure that you have to reengineer pricing to preserve profitability.”
Gardiner characterized the 2011 Washington legal market as relatively flat, but said that 2012 has more potential for financial growth. He said that firms are focusing more on regulatory practices.
Thomas Milch, Arnold & Porter chair, concurred that regulation was busy during 2011 and helped boost the firm’s revenue growth to $639.5 million, but he was hesitant to predict the firm would move in one way or another. And while Washington is the firm’s largest office, Milch said that the breadth of the firm’s practices contributed to its strong year.
“It was really no single case or significant practice group,” Milch said. “It was broader gauged than that. I am humbled by how well we did last year and by no means have expectations that we will do that well every year.”
Among the trends Milch noted was the resurgence in the importance of client services.
“The law firms that are constantly responsive to client needs and repeatedly cost-effective are the firms that are going to do well,” Milch said.
Tim Hester, chair of Covington's management committee, said in an email to Legal Times that the firm's success was reflected in its investment in its people and its international expansion.
“The past four years have been a dynamic period of strengthening and improvement for the firm,” Hester said. “We face a world of increasingly intensive competition, but we expect to continue to thrive because of our investment in our people and our expanded global presence.”
He said that the competitive legal climate in Washington means that the firm will work to strengthen its ties with clients at the same time that it builds new relationships. Moving forward, Hester said the firm is also working to bolster its core practices, including litigation, white collar and investigations, corporate and regulatory practices.
For the full Am Law 100 list, including additional coverage, check out the American Lawyer website.