Andrew Smulian, chairman and CEO of Akerman / Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM

 

Akerman reported an increase in revenue and income in 2018 despite some churning in leadership, with Akerman Chairman Andrew Smulian chalking up the success to strong transactional performance and lateral growth.

Gross revenue rose by 5.1 percent, from $385.2 million to $404.9 million, and net income rose 8.6 percent, from $140.9 million to $153 million. Revenue per lawyer increased 1.8 percent, from $611,00 to $622,00. But profits per equity partner remained almost flat, increasing 0.4 percent, from $672,000 to $675,000.

But the flat PEP came as the firm increased the number of equity partners by 8.1 percent, to 227 in 2018 from 210 a year earlier. Total head count also grew, from 631 lawyers in 1997 to 651 last year — an increase of 3.2 percent.

Smulian lauded the firm’s corporate, real estate and litigation work as integral to the firm’s success.

In April, Akerman attorneys closed a transaction between Grossinger Auto Group and publicly-traded AutoCanada valued at $86 million. In December, Akerman closed on the sale of a $300 million pulp mill by Resolute Forest Products. Smulian also said the firm advised on a $55 million luxury condo refinancing in Vail, Colorado.

The firm chair also pointed to Akerman’s progress in diversity as a particular point of pride for the firm. Akerman abides by the so-called Mansfield Rule, which broadly means that at least 30 percent of a law firms’ candidate pools for any leadership or governance position—including equity partnership promotions and lateral positions—must comprise women or minorities.

“Fifty-six percent of our new hires were female, 11 percent were Black and 11 percent were Hispanic,” Smulian said.

The positive financial results came in a year in which there was some drama at Akerman. The firm made headlines when it announced that its chairman of seven months, David Spector, had suddenly stepped down. Smulian retook the reins of the firm, and, in February, Spector jumped to Holland & Knight. He brought 11 Akerman attorneys with him.

Smulian said the firm’s lateral strategy is mainly tied to client demand, and the firm targeted several key markets, bringing on seven attorneys in New York, six in Chicago, 13 in Texas and seven in Los Angeles.

For 2019, Smulian said the strategy is much the same.

“We will continue to focus on the area of our core strengths including middle market M&A, Latin America, financial services and real estate,” Smulian said. “The lateral strategy is going to continue much the same.”