Fresh off its merger with a 100-lawyer New York firm, Venable extended its decade-long run of increases in profits and revenue per lawyer.
Venable, which completed its merger with Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto in November 2018, grew its gross revenue 5.5 percent last year to $570.2 million. The firm increased its total lawyer head count by 3.3 percent and revenue per lawyer ticked up 2.1 percent to $868,000. The equity partnership contracted by 1.2 percent, helping boost profits per equity partner 2.7 percent to $1.165 million.
The firm, with its roots in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., has said the Fitzpatrick deal would add nearly $80 million in revenue, with the combined firm’s future projected revenue topping $620 million.
Larry Gesner, co-managing partner of Venable, evaluated the early progress of the combination as “fantastic.” Gesner said the firm is intensely focused on integration, and held a retreat for the combined firm’s new lawyers in recent weeks in Baltimore.
Prioritizing the largest combination in firm history has not stopped Venable from pursuing additional growth in other geographical markets. Venable added nine media and entertainment lawyers in Los Angeles last month, including four partners and five associates, all from Kelley Drye & Warren.
Gesner said he expects the firm to continue growing outside its mid-Atlantic roots in the coming year.
“The markets where we are not as big are a little bit easier to grow in, and those are San Francisco and LA and New York, although now we’re quite big in New York,” Gesner said, noting the Fitzpatrick combination. “I think we’ll continue to grow in those areas.”
Venable’s growth in New York was not limited to its Fitzpatrick combination. Gesner noted the addition of Ani Hovanessian, now chair of the firm’s New York tax and wealth planning practice, as a particularly significant hire. Hovanessian joined as a partner from Holland & Knight along with Lawrence Mandelker, who joined the group as counsel from Seyfarth Shaw. Together, Gesner said, the duo will build out the firm’s New York tax and wealth planning capabilities.
The firm also recruited Guenther Schumacher in New York as chief revenue officer from Ogilvy, an ad agency. Gesner said Schumacher was giving Venable an entirely new perspective on its branding and approach to various markets.
He said the firm’s growth in markets outside the mid-Atlantic would not come at the expense of Baltimore and D.C. Venable elected 19 lawyers to its partnership effective April 1, including 12 in Baltimore, Washington and the D.C. suburb of Tysons, Virginia. The firm simultaneously promoted 34 associates to counsel, including seven lawyers in D.C. and Virginia, and seven lawyers in Baltimore.
Venable looked to carefully navigate its expenses last year ahead of the merger, although its nonequity compensation rose nearly 14 percent amid adding a net 13 nonequity partners last year. Gesner said Venable’s top expenses are its lawyer cost, then staff, and then rent—in that order. Venable moved into new offices in Washington, D.C., in February 2017, putting it across the street from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer near Chinatown.
To help offset such expenses, Venable did raise rates. But, Gesner said the firm’s rates are “below the median for the Am Law 100.”
Gesner said the firm will continue to focus on the D.C. market, and that its initial concerns have subsided regarding how the market could change after President Donald Trump took office. While various areas of the firm, such as antitrust work, are not “quite as active,” Gesner said, other practices have been very active, including the firm’s election law practice, its data security and privacy practices, and its payment processing practice.
“I think the D.C. market continues to be just a great market for lawyers, that’s the reason there are so many lawyers here,” Gesner said. “It’s competitive obviously, but [it’s] just a great market and a continued growth market. As long as the federal government is in business, which we hope will be a long time, I think it’ll be a good market for lawyers in D.C.”