Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan may not have had a platinum year in 2012, but it certainly was solid.
The firm saw a 2.9 percent increase in revenue, $9 million more than in 2011. It also saw a 1.5 percent uptick in profit per partner, which is $15,000 more than in 2011.
Managing partner Mark Wasserman said Sutherland managed to hit its marks even while adding new lawyers, moving its offices in Austin, Texas, and Washington and upgrading its online storage network and website.
"With the combination of adding people and moving offices and making technology investments, it would not have surprised me if we had a year where everything was down because of all the activities," said Wasserman. What bolstered the firm was growth in its insurance and tax practices.
"Our insurance lawyers had a great year on the [mergers and acquisitions] front," Wasserman said.
Sutherland was brought in to represent The Hartford Financial Services Group while it was being bought by Prudential Financial Inc. last fall. Its other corporate clients included Transocean, Goldman Sachs, Comcast, The Coca-Cola Co. and Oglethorpe Power Corp..
"We had a strong year in Atlanta," Wasserman added. "On our litigation side, we did a good amount of new and additional employment litigation."
Sutherland carried over its efforts to add lawyers and nonequity partners. Its New York and Washington officers managed to scoop up more than a dozen lawyers, including nine lateral partners, from Dewey & LeBoeuf after the global New York-based firm imploded last summer.
"The unfortunate circumstances around Dewey & LeBoeuf were horrible, but we got partners from that firm who we worked with a lot in insurance and tax areas," said Wasserman. "And they were culturally a perfect fit."
In Atlanta, Sutherland recruited Joel Hughey from Premiere Global Services into its corporate group. The Atlanta office lost intellectual property lawyer William Long III to McKenna, Long & Aldridge and tax lawyer Robert Neis to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Another 2012 milestone was the opening of a Sacramento office—Sutherland’s first foray into California. The office is built around the firm’s tax practice, Wasserman said.
While the 2008 market crash is well behind, Wasserman acknowledged it made a lasting impression on strategy.
"For law firms, it meant we had to be able to prove our value-add to our clients and be flexible around how we were thinking about staffing and providing services," he said. "We had to look at if it’s better to use a college graduate or a paralegal for certain work so we can offer service that comes in at a dollar number that our clients are comfortable with. The days of bill-by-the-hour with no budgets are gone for good."
Following through this year, the firm’s insurance and tax practices will continue to be the focal points for growth, especially as federal regulations are expected to change, said Wasserman. The firm does not plan to add any new offices or expand into any new practices.
"But I’m always open to opportunities," Wasserman said. "I never say never."
This report is part of the Daily Report’s early coverage of the 2012 financial results of local firms as part of the Am Law 100 and Second Hundred reports. Financial rankings of local firms will be published on April 1. Full results for the Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer and online in May. The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in June.