Crowell & Moring had a banner year in 2009. Gross revenue jumped 14.5 percent, climbing from $296 million to $339 million. Revenue per lawyer increased by 9 percent to $809,231.
Net compensation to equity partners increased 17.69 percent, rising to $102.9 million. And PPP swelled by 9.86 percent, going from $999,765 to $1.098 million.
Kent Gardiner, the firm's chairman, attributed the surge in revenue to strong litigation, antitrust and government contracts practices. He also credited greater use of alternative billing arrangements with helping the firm bring in new clients and receive additional business from existing clients.
"When talking to our clients at the beginning of 2008, they told us that all of their business was on the table. They said they needed a law firm that was much more responsive to their needs than what they have received in the past. By relying more heavily on alternative billing arrangements than we ever have before, we were able to bring in a lot more work," Gardiner said.
Gardiner said about 30 percent of the firm's business is billed through alternative arrangements. In 2009, the firm scored two major victories on behalf of antitrust plaintiffs that brought in sizable contingent fees. The first one came on behalf of a group of rubber chemicals buyers, Bridgestone Bandag, who filed suit against participants in a worldwide price-fixing cartel. An arbitration panel in Washington awarded Bridgestone Bandag $14.3 million.
In the second case, Crowell represented Sun Microsystems and others against computer chip manufacturers for their alleged involvement in an international conspiracy to fix the price of dynamic random access memory. Sun Microsystems was among the largest purchasers of DRAM, with affected purchases totaling billions of dollars. Crowell scored several "large" settlements for its clients.
Crowell saw a 4.89 percent increase to its overall headcount, going from 399.43 to 418.95. The firm added six equity partners, an increase of 7.12 percent. A much larger increase came at the nonequity partner level: 18 nonequity partners, for an increase of 27.56 percent.
The number of lawyers below the equity and nonequity partner ranks dipped slightly -- by about five lawyers. Gardiner said that he hadn't noticed that decrease and put it down to the firm's aggressive lateral acquisitions and the lag in staffing up around them.
Gardiner said most of the additional lawyers were added to Crowell's litigation practices across the country, but the firm has also been adding lawyers to its government contracts and corporate practices.
Because of the cutoff date for the Am Law 200 survey, the increase in Crowell's headcount does not take into account the acquisition of Folger Levin & Kahn's litigation team in San Francisco. That acquisition, which became official in November, gave the firm 29 lawyers and a foothold in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In October 2009, Crowell asked staff members to voluntarily lay themselves off in exchange for six months pay. A Crowell spokeswoman said 39 staff members took the buyout. The firm did not have any attorney layoffs. But as The National Law Journal previously reported, within its two-tier associate pay structure, Crowell did move "fewer than 20" underperforming associates to the lower-paying tier. Also, average compensation to nonequity partners dropped from $403,626 to $370,136.
Crowell also posted a 44.7 percent pro bono increase, jumping to 30,431 hours. Gardiner said the increase is due to a recommitment to pro bono about a year and a half ago. In addition to stressing the importance of pro bono work among active partners, Gardiner said the firm also reached out to senior partners to increase their involvement.
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.