Midmarket law firm Husch Blackwell reported an uptick in financial results for fiscal year 2018, with gross revenue increasing to $353.5 million from $349 million the year before—a gain of 1.3 percent. Revenue per lawyer rose 3.3 percent, from $568,000 to $587,000 over the same period.
Profits per equity partner also climbed 3.3 percent, from $574,000 to $593,000—but the gain came as the number of equity partners shrank 4.1 percent, from 169 to 162. Firmwide lawyer head count also dropped, from 614 to 602—a 2 percent decline.
“We characterize 2018 as a solid year in what continues to be a challenging marketplace,” said Paul Eberle, the firm’s chief executive.
Eberle acknowledged that the strong revenue per lawyer figure is partly a result of having fewer lawyers vying for a piece of the transactional pie. The firm let 40 lawyers go in 2017.
Eberle cited the firm’s energy and natural resources practices as a standout in the past year. Since establishing a presence in Houston in 2013 through a tie-up with Brown McCarroll, Husch Blackwell has added bench strength in Houston and now has 17 lawyers there. Recent additions include former city of Houston attorney Arturo Michel and former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels.
Another sweet spot for Husch Blackwell has been litigation, Eberle said.
“We continue to take on more work managing national litigation for larger companies that rely not only on our experience but our ability to manage complex litigation and our relations with local counsel across the country,” Eberle said. “Internal legal teams have been asking us to come in and manage large caseloads of litigation.”
Eberle noted that the firm saw a slight downturn in the volume of its restructuring work in the past year.
He also said the firm has no merger prospects on the horizon but the firm’s leadership would not automatically say no to merger talks.
“Nothing is imminent, but we are certainly of the belief that we need to continue to grow and expand our reach geographically and expand the depth of our practices,” Eberle said, adding that the growth of the litigation practice, in particular, raises the prospect of opening doors in new cities in coming years.
Like many law firms, Husch Blackwell has made a massive investment in IT systems and training. The firm hires outside vendors and advisers to test its internal network, including through such exercises as sending phishing emails to employees in order to assess whether they can recognize suspicious emails as such.
“Our entire IT budget has increased in double digits in recent years, and we are moving more and more of our applications out to the cloud,” Eberle said.
The lobbying firm Husch Blackwell Strategies shares the name of the law firm, but its revenues are separately reported and do not figure into the gross revenues reported by the law firm, Eberle said.