A modest increase in gross revenue combined with a dip in equity partner head count helped boost Irell & Manella’s profits per partner 19 percent, to $3.42 million last year.

The spike in profits came as the 212-lawyer firm’s gross revenue rose 4.5 percent, to $255 million, and the size of its one-tier partnership dipped 9.4 percent, from 53 to 48. The firm’s overall attorney head count, meanwhile, fell 4.1 percent, and its revenue per lawyer rose 9.1 percent, to $1.56 million.

According to managing partner Andrei Iancu, who says last year’s reductions in both partners and total attorneys were the product of natural attrition, Irell’s 2012 performance shows the firm doing more with less. "We do have slightly fewer people this year, so we have been more efficient as a result," Iancu says.

The results allow Irell to maintain its status as one of The Am Law 200′s most profitable firms—its 2012 profits per partner were The Am Law 200′s sixth-highest, and its revenue per lawyer was the group’s second-highest. A year ago, its PPP of $2.88 million for 2011 was the eighth-highest among Am Law 200 firms, while its RPL of $1.43 million qualified it for third place in that category, behind only Wachtell, Rosen, Lipton & Katz and Sullivan & Cromwell.

Iancu says 2012 stood out for the diversity of matters that kept firm attorneys busy, including intellectual property cases, securities litigation, transactional work, and bankruptcies. For example, Irell represented Tivo Inc. in connection with patent infringement lawsuits launched against companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. over digital video recording technology.

Other notable matters in which Irell had a hand in 2012 include its defense of BlackBerry in a patent infringement action brought by Unwired Planet Inc. before the International Trade Commission, and its representation of home builder William Lyon Homes Inc. in a prepackaged reorganization.