An enormous contingency fee, along with merger integration, made 2012 a major comeback year for Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. Gross revenue shot up $44.5 million, a 12.3 percent increase. The top-line growth boosted revenue per lawyer to $735,000, a 16.7 percent rise that is The Am Law 100′s largest, while profits per equity partner rose to $860,000, a 36.5 percent jump that is The Am Law 100′s second-largest.

Those results followed a lackluster 2011, when gross revenue and profits per partner both sagged in the wake of the January 2011 merger of Atlanta’s Kilpatrick Stockton and San Francisco’s Townsend and Townsend and Crew. The combined firm’s gross revenue dropped almost 7 percent that year, and its PPP fell 12.5 percent.

Central to the turnaround was a multimillion-dollar contingency payment that the firm received in the Cobell v. Salazar class action. In the case, Kilpatrick represented a class of more than 500,000 Native Americans who sued the U.S. Department of Interior, alleging decades of mismanagement of their royalty payments from oil, gas, and mineral leases on tribal land.

After 15 years of litigation, Kilpatrick’s clients in 2011 reached a $3.4 billion settlement—the largest ever won against the federal government—but appeals from a few class members delayed the payout. The settlement will pay individuals in the class about $1,800 each, establish a $1.9 billion fund to restore lands to Native American tribes, and set up a $60 million scholarship fund.

A federal district court judge awarded Kilpatrick and its cocounsel on the case, Washington, D.C., solo practitioner Dennis Gingold, $99 million in attorney fees last year. Kilpatrick chairman Paul Aguggia, citing a confidentiality agreement, would not say how much money his firm received in 2012 for the Cobell case. Nor would he say how the fee was split or whether Kilpatrick booked its entire share of the payment in 2012.

Aguggia did say that even without the Cobell fee, the firm’s RPL would have increased 6 percent and PPP would have increased about 4.5 percent. "The practices were strong in a very tough market," he says. "We were very pleased."

The RPL and PPP figures that Aguggia provided suggest that Kilpatrick booked almost $38 million in revenue from the Cobell case in 2012. Without the Cobell payment, the firm’s revenue would have increased 2 percent, to about $368.5 million; the Cobell fee apparently accounted for about $200,000 of the $230,000 average increase in PPP for the firm’s 160 equity partners.

Aguggia says Kilpatrick will continue to invest selectively in high-profile contingency cases. "The key is having the ability to make the investment," he says.

Meanwhile, the firm’s intellectual property litigation and prosecution practices were strong in 2012, Aguggia says, and there was an increase in transactional work. Kilpatrick opened a Shanghai office in October with two lawyers from its Denver office, focused on intellectual property work for clients in China. (The firm already had offices in Tokyo and Taipei.)

Kilpatrick’s head count declined in 2012 by 24 lawyers, to 552. The size of the firm’s equity and nonequity partnerships both declined by six, leaving it with 160 equity and 101 nonequity partners for the year.