Driven by a strong year in its transactional practice and some high-profile litigation matters, Nixon Peabody reported double-digit percentage increases in revenue and profit in 2018 over the prior year—including a more than 35 percent jump in partner profits.
The firm, which has the largest of 17 offices in Boston, posted gross revenue of more than $530.6 million in the 2018 fiscal year, a 12 percent uptick over 2017. With 607 lawyers at Nixon Peabody, the firm’s top line results amounted to revenue per lawyer of $874,000—an 11.1 percent increase compared with the prior year’s RPL results of $787,000.
“2018 was a banner year for us; we were up in a major way,” said Nixon Peabody CEO and managing partner Andrew Glincher.
The strong gains in 2018’s revenue came alongside sizable bumps in the firm’s net income, which rose 33 percent to $196.9 million. Profits per equity partner (PEP) were also buoyed. The average Nixon Peabody equity partner earned more than $1.5 million in profits in 2018, some 35.2 percent more than the $1.11 million PEP figure the firm reported in 2017.
Those PEP changes coincided with a slight decrease in the firm’s equity partnership, which shrunk to 131 in 2018 from the 133 equity partners the firm had in 2017. The dip in equity partner head count was offset by an increase of 3 non-equity partners; non-equity compensation at Nixon Peabody totaled $60.88 million in 2017.
Overall, the firm’s head count grew slightly in 2018, increasing from 602 lawyers to 607 lawyers. Nixon Peabody made four lateral partner hires across various U.S. offices in 2018—adding real estate lawyer David Allswang in Chicago, labor and employment lawyer Benjamin Kim in Los Angeles, public finance lawyer Roderick Devlin in New York and corporate lawyer Lior Zorea in San Francisco.
The firm kept those lawyers busy with a range of transactional and litigation work. On the deals side, which Glincher said was particularly strong in 2018, Nixon Peabody represented alcohol maker Constellation Brands Inc. in connection with a $4 billion investment in Canadian medical marijuana company Canopy Growth Corp.
The firm also had a role advising payroll processing company Paychex Inc. in a $1.2 billion acquisition of human resources services company Oasis Outsourcing Acquisition Corp. Nixon Peabody’s public finance group, which lateral hire Devlin joined, represented New York’s Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in connection with a municipal bond issuance.
“Our transactional practice has been through the roof,” said Glincher, explaining that beyond the major deals over a billion dollars, the firm also had an active year in smaller, mid-market transactions.
On the litigation side, highlights included a defense win for Daher-Socata Aerospace after a three-week trial in a widely publicized $15 million negligence lawsuit against the French aircraft manufacturer. The firm also found success in contingency fee litigation, which Glincher said is a recurring but relatively minor part of the firm’s business. Such cases typically amount to about 1 percent of the firm’s revenue; in 2018, the firm earned about $20 million from contingency cases compared with the total gross revenue of $530.6 million.
Beyond the firm’s work efforts and financial results, Glincher said diversity was another key focus for Nixon Peabody over the past year. Some 60 percent of the firm’s new partner class for 2019 come from diverse backgrounds, and in 2018 the firm became certified under the Mansfield Rule. The rule specifies that at least 30 percent of the candidate pool for leadership or governance positions at a law firm are comprised of women and minorities.
Glincher said the firm’s focus on diversity, as well as a commitment to promoting health and well-being among Nixon Peabody lawyers and employees, all serve to make the firm a dynamic and attractive workplace. That sort of focus, Glincher added, helps draw in the kind of top legal talent that Nixon Peabody looks for, especially amid an environment in which “the competition for great talent is as great as the competition for great clients.”
“It just makes us a much better organization,” he said “All of these things have made for a very dynamic environment.”