Best Best & Krieger (BB&K), a California-based law firm specializing in work for cities, counties, districts, and other public agencies, posted significant growth in revenue, profits, and lawyer head count in FY 2018 compared with the year before.
Gross revenue reached $91.5 million, an 8.9 percent increase over 2017′s figure of $84 million. Revenue per lawyer climbed from $451,000 to $454,000, a 0.7 percent gain. Profits per equity partner rose from $393,000 to $398,000, a 1.3 percent increase.
All this growth occurred as the firm increased its lawyer head count. The total number of lawyers at the firm rose from 186 to 202. The new hires include eight attorneys who were previously with the boutique Manhattan Beach law firm Jenkins & Hogin. BB&K also gained three health care-focused attorneys when the California law firm Archer Norris closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy.
While the number of equity partners at Best was constant at 56, the law firm gained six nonequity partners, for a total of 47.
Eric Garner, managing partner of the firm, attributes the strong figures partly to a post-downturn economy offering plentiful opportunities to serve municipal and other public clients in California and beyond.
“The growth has been organic, building on public agency demand and, to some extent, private business demand. There aren’t too many law firms that do this type of work,” Garner said. “The primary competition is much smaller boutique firms. We have a greater breadth.”
Apart from its merger with the much smaller firm of Jenkins & Hogin, BB&K has not engaged in merger talks in the last few years, Garner said. Public agency work is, ultimately, a lower-rate type of legal service compared to the kinds of work for which Am Law 100 firms tend to bill $1,000 or $1,500 an hour, and a law firm specializing in public agency representations simply might not make enough money for some potential merger partners, Garner acknowledged.
In 2019 and beyond, the law firm aims to expand existing practice areas through lateral hires, but not at such a rate that the assimilation of lawyers into the firm’s distinct culture will be sacrificed, Garner said.
“We have some conversations going on, and we hope there will be some further growth this year, but we don’t want to grow too fast,” he said.