Steven Sonberg, Managing Partner, Holland & Knight

 

Holland & Knight reported growth for the 10th consecutive year, despite salary raises and robust lateral activity.

The firm saw an increase in gross revenue of 7.9 percent in the 2018 fiscal year, from $848 million to $915 million. And profits per equity partner grew by 4.7 percent, from $1.36 million to $1.42 million.

Holland & Knight also expanded its head count by nearly 6 percent, increasing to a total of 1,141 lawyers. Since 2010, the firm’s head count has grown by 207 attorneys, and gross revenue has increased by 40 percent.

The firm increased its equity partner head count by 2.8 percent to 184 from 179 in 2017.

Some of its head count growth came from the addition of 64 lateral partners. In November, Holland nabbed the CEO of Clifton Bancorp, a boon to their financial services practice, which managing partner Steven Sonberg said is a particular focus area for the firm. In Texas, the firm picked up five real estate and finance attorneys from K&L Gates. In July, 11 partners left Reed Smith to set up Holland & Knight’s Philadelphia office. By the end of the year, that office boasted about 40 partners.

“Our strategy in the past few years is to grow and invest in practice areas that are strengths to the firm: private equity, health care, white collar, real estate, financial services,” Sonberg said, who took over the firm in the midst of the financial crisis. “All of those are shaping up to be important areas going forward in 2019.”

An active lateral market cuts both ways, though, as the firm lost attorneys to other Florida-based firms including insurance partner Tom Morante, who left for Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck, and partners Terrence Davis and William McCullough, who left to Greenberg Traurig and Shutts & Bowen, respectively.

Latin America continues to be a focus for the firm, Sonberg said. It advised Fibra UNO, Mexico’s largest real estate investment trust, in a $500 million debt issuance, as well as a financing deal in Chile worth $700 million.

Doug Wright, operations and finance partner at Holland & Knight, said the firm will continue its aggressive lateral activity in 2019 and is finalizing the courtship of some sizable groups. The firm has also taken steps to put themselves in a good position should warnings of an impending recession prove accurate.

The firm does not have debt, Sonberg said. And even some of its lateral hires have been made with a possible recession in mind.

“We acquired two laterals last month, both who have a bankruptcy and restructuring practice — David Wirt and David Fischer — to bolster those key areas in case of a downturn,” Sonberg said.