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Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld managed to spin a sluggish economy into gold in 2002. Due largely to active litigation and bankruptcy practices, Akin Gump’s 236-lawyer D.C. office eked out a 6 percent increase in gross revenue and saw a 20 percent boost in its average profits per equity partner. Firmwide, the gains were slightly more muted—a 4 percent increase in gross revenue and a 10 percent jump in its average profits per equity partner. “We were expecting the worst in 2002 and were watching expenses all year long,” says firm chairman R. Bruce McLean. “We were delighted with the way the year turned out.” Another D.C. partner jokes, “The bad economy has been good to us.” Distress in corporate America contributed to Akin Gump’s more robust bottom line in part by fueling a busy financial restructuring practice that has grown to 60 attorneys firmwide. According to McLean, the firm represents parties in five of the 10 largest bankruptcies filed in 2002, including the unsecured creditors in WorldCom Inc. Meanwhile, Akin Gump’s D.C. litigators kept busy with a mix of intellectual property, government regulation, and corporate criminal cases. Among the firm’s local litigation clients: the AT&T Corp., Sallie Mae, Ernst & Young, and the outside directors of the HealthSouth Corp. Akin Gump’s attorney head count dropped in 2002, shrinking from approximately 950 lawyers firmwide to 864. The D.C. office dipped from 248 lawyers to 236. D.C. managing partner Richard Burdick attributes the slight reduction to normal attrition and slow lateral hiring. “Opportunities to grow over the last 18 months to two years are just not there like they were before,” Burdick says. (While Akin Gump made relatively few lateral hires in 2002, the firm recently picked up approximately 20 lawyers from the Austin office of the now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, including top litigator Steven Zager.) Fifteen firm attorneys were elected to partnership last year, including two in the District. Akin Gump’s most remarkable achievement in 2002 may be its 25 percent increase in total pro bono hours. The firm’s total pro bono work climbed from 25,418 hours in 2001 to 31,693 hours in 2002. The average time spent on pro bono work per attorney jumped from 28 hours to 38 hours. “I’m very, very pleased,” says McLean.

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