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LOS ANGELES � Fueled by an improving economy, L.A.-based firms reported impressive revenue gains in 2005, with five of the region’s largest firms posting double-digit growth. In a sign that firms are busier and raising billing rates, revenue per lawyer was up at most firms, too, with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher edging over the $1 million mark on that yardstick. In 2004, only a handful of New York-based firms reported RPL in excess of $1 million.
Chart: LA Firms’ Revenues

Leading the way on total revenue was Latham & Watkins, which grossed $1.4 billion, a 17 percent increase from last year. Profits per equity partner leapt 14 percent to $1.6 million. “We had very strong gains, which reflected some significant growth in many practice areas and many regions around the world,” said Scott Haber, a member of the firm’s executive committee. Latham opened a Shanghai office as well as a Munich office in 2005. They also worked on a number of IPOs for Chinese companies listing in the United States, including Baidu.com, the Chinese search engine. Gibson, Dunn also saw profits per partner hit the $1.6 million mark, a 8 percent increase from last year. Overall revenue at the firm was at $746 million. In December, Gibson became the first Am Law 100 firm to raise associate salaries across the board, following the lead of smaller firms in the region. “We were busy in all sectors and litigation was firing on all cylinders,” said Kenneth Doran, Gibson, Dunn’s managing partner. The firm’s London office grew in capability and headcount with the addition of a litigation and commercial arbitration practice there last summer. A few firms, including O’Melveny & Myers; Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; and Irell & Manella, have not yet reported their results. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton reported 15 percent gains in revenue, revenue per lawyer and profits per partner, even as headcount remained flat. That put profits per partner at $785,000. Chairman Guy Halgren said the firm year came in “exactly on budget,” and attributed the growth to overall client demand, in particular in the New York, Washington D.C. and Del Mar Heights offices. “Corporate had its best year ever,” Halgren said, and other practices had healthy gains, with the exception of bankruptcy. The firm fleshed out its Washington, D.C. office with a food and drug law group and expanded its entertainment and media group with a new FCC practice, and is seeking to open an office in China. While most firms’ growth was aided by attorney hires, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips increased headcount by just one, but still grew revenue by 8 percent to $196 million. The firm also saw an increase in profits per partner to $1 million. Managing Partner Paul Irving said he was especially proud to see the firm’s pro bono hours surge 36 percent and the number of U.S. lawyers who performed more than 20 hours of pro bono nearly double to 108. Manatt plans to “grow when appropriate” and is eyeing Northern California. The firm is close to growing out of its space in Palo Alto and “there are certainly some people who think San Francisco holds some interest,” Irving said. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, which last year led the region’s Top 10 firms in profits per partner, saw an increase of just 1 percent to $1.9 million in PPP. The year before, profits per partner leapt 39 percent. “That was because we had some big contingency fee hits last year and this year there were not so many,” said partner William Urquhart. “We still had some, but it wasn’t of the magnitude of years before.” Urquhart attributes the 21 percent growth in revenue to his firm’s success in its trial practice as well as “explosive” growth in the IP arena. More than half of the firm’s revenues are now coming from IP litigation, he said. Headcount at the firm grew 15 percent. Quinn Emanuel also saw an increase in business fraud cases, many against financial advisers or accounting institutions. Since the firm does not have a deals and acquisition practice, it’s less likely to have conflicts that prevent it from suing those institutions, Urquhart pointed out. Munger, Tolles & Olson grew headcount by 15 percent last year, and saw revenue climb 7 percent, to $164 million. Profits per partner grew about 4 percent. “We had an unusually high year of hiring more lawyers,” said Co-Managing Partner Mark Helm. “Because we have more work to do, we’ve doubled efforts to recruit people.” Among the firm’s significant cases were its trial victories for Michael Ovitz in the Disney shareholder litigation in Delaware, and representing Boeing in litigation involving Lockheed Martin. In its corporate practice, the firm expanded its expertise in private equity fund formation work in 2005. Loeb & Loeb had its “best year by a lot,” said firm chief operating officer Jerry Post, with revenue up more than 20 percent, to $146 million, and profits per partner up almost 30 percent, to $926,000. Post attributes the results to a larger attorney population and more work across the board. “We added a lot of lawyers into niche practice areas,” he said. “A lot of our strategic objectives that we’ve been working on over the past few years have paid off on the top and bottom lines.” Unlike years past, there were no slow practice areas in 2005, but particularly busy were the firm’s New York and Los Angeles commercial litigation groups, as well as the corporate and entertainment practices. Post said growth is expected this year, if not as robust. Meanwhile, the firm’s pro bono hours plummeted by 63 percent, from more than 7,000 hours in 2004 to 2,600 hours last year. Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory saw its signature real estate practice bring in the most revenue, with a land use practice area driving the growth. “Our clients are growing in quite a robust fashion, and we’re mirroring what our clients are seeing,” said John Gamble, one of the founding members of the firm. The firm decreased its partnership by one and grew profits per partner by 16 percent to $675,000. A few of the L.A.-based firms that made last year’s list of top grossing firms have not yet toted up their results, in some cases because their fiscal years ended Jan. 31. But both O’Melveny and Paul, Hastings said they had good years. O’Melveny & Myers saw an increased deal flow, said Seth Aronson, the firm’s managing partner in Los Angeles, citing its representation of DreamWorks Animation as an example. “Our transaction activity was on par with litigation,” Aronson said. “And litigation did not miss a beat.” The balance between corporate and litigation work was exceptional this year at Paul, Hastings, said Chairman Seth Zachary. 2005 was a year in which the firm “enjoyed the fruits of a global platform,” Zachary said, pointing out the firm’s work for Citigroup in Latin America and Europe and its IPO work with COSCO, a Chinese shipping company. In 2005, Paul, Hastings opened offices in Milan and Palo Alto and expanded offices in Shanghai, London and Japan.

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