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Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld equity partners last year came achingly close to making an average of $1 million per partner. The firm, with 227 lawyers and 66 equity partners in the District, saw profits per partner jump 27 percent in 2003, with equity partners taking home an average $930,000 last year, up from $731,000 in 2002. Firm chairman R. Bruce McLean says cutting costs and shifting focus to high-end work — such as environmental, health care, and lobbying efforts — helped increase partners’ draws. “The firm as a whole had a very strong year last year,” says McLean. Moving away from lower-priced work — such as toxic torts — has caused “a very significant boost in our profitability,” says McLean. “We focused on the areas where we had the highest value.” But the firm also shed some lawyers in 2003. Head count fell to 227 from 236 in 2002. Revenue increased a modest 6 percent, up to $173 million in 2003 from $163 million in 2002. McLean says three practices in particular — financial restructuring, litigation, and emerging markets — helped increase profitability. The firm billed about $14 million representing the creditors committee in the mammoth WorldCom Inc. bankruptcy, according to Legal Times affiliate Corporate Counsel. Akin Gump lawyers were also counsel to creditors committees in the bankruptcies of St. Louis-based chemical company Solutia Inc. and New York-based aerospace and defense company Loral Space & Communications Ltd., two of the 10 largest bankruptcies filed in 2003. The firm’s litigators had a busy latter half of the year representing energy company FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, Ohio, in litigation stemming from the Northeast blackout of August 2003. “That has kept us rather busy,” says McLean. In June, partners Joseph Esposito, Paul Hewitt, and Larry Tanenbaum won a federal court victory for the Sallie Mae Corp. in the Eastern District of Virginia. The College Loan Corp. accused Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student loan company, of antitrust conspiracy. A jury disagreed and dismissed, with prejudice, the case against Reston-based Sallie Mae. Akin Gump lawyers also resolved a nine-year-old case in 2003 — a class action filed against the California Highway Patrol claiming it discriminated against minority officers in giving promotions. In November, a federal jury in California dismissed the suit, originally filed in 1994. Akin Gump lobbyists had a good 2003, posting an 18 percent revenue jump from last year, according to a recent ranking in Influence, a sister publication to Legal Times. Firm lobbyists brought in $59.4 million, about 10 percent of firmwide revenue. McLean says the firm’s emerging markets practice “really stood out” last year, buoyed primarily by the South Korean and Russian economies. This practice, in which Akin Gump lawyers advise companies on the issues surrounding business in new markets, “posted some good results firmwide,” he says.

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