Akerman last year continued its seven-year streak of record financial growth as gross revenue rose 10.4 percent, to $385.2 million, and profits per equity partner rose 2.1 percent to $672,000, according to preliminary data by The American Lawyer.
The Florida-based Am Law 100 firm has been among the fastest-growing firms in the country since 2011, with revenue and head count rising 63 percent and 42 percent, respectively, during that timeframe. The 98-year-old Akerman has earned revenue and net income records seven years in a row.
The firm’s total head count rose 6.1 percent in 2017, to 631 lawyers. The largest growth was among nonequity partners, in which there were 161, up 11.8 percent from the year prior. The equity partnership also swelled 8.8 percent last year, to 210.
Earlier this year, Akerman underwent a leadership transition, naming insurance, health care and legal malpractice litigator David Spector as its new chairman and CEO in February. He takes the reins from Andrew Smulian, who led the firm for 10 years. Spector had been chosen by Smulian for the role in late 2016.
Spector said that Akerman saw demand growth from clients in core practice groups such as middle market M&A, private equity, real estate and its Latin American practice.
“It was a great year for us,” Spector said.
The firm has grown aggressively through lateral hiring in major U.S. markets including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Texas. Akerman now has about 115 lawyers in New York, for instance, after opening there in 2006. The Chicago office has about 50 lawyers after Akerman planted a flag in the Windy City in 2014.
Spector said the firm would continue to recruit partners in those cities, as well as in South Florida, where last month the firm bolted on the six-lawyer Ackerman Law Group in West Palm Beach.
“We’re continuing to see an increase in client demand in our core strength areas,” Spector said. “So we are still looking for professionals to service those existing client needs. At the same time we’re lucky and blessed that we’re getting an exceptional amount of high-quality candidates looking to join.”
The firm has also looked to invest in ways to deliver legal services differently. It has unveiled a research and development council, where partners at Akerman team up with clients to develop innovative practice solutions. It has also built an internal tool to better capture data on its practices and clients.
A Chicago partner, Jeffrey Sharer, co-chairs the firm’s data law practice and has worked with Neota Logic Inc. and Thomson Reuters Corp. to build a web-based a web-based solution for data privacy advice called the Akerman Data Law Center. The tool can save 80 percent of the time to research data privacy laws, the firm has said.
Spector said Akerman will continue to look for ways to implement new service delivery models for different clients, noting that the demand for different service delivery options varies among clients. Almost a decade after the firm—and many others—were hit hard by the financial crisis, Spector has an optimistic outlook for 2018.
“I think we’re going to have another very strong year,” Spector said. “From the amount of demand we have currently with existing clients to the inbound laterals that are coming to join us with their practices, we’re exceptionally well-positioned for this upcoming fiscal year.”