On the heels of a relatively stagnant 2011, Holland & Hart made dramatic gains in both gross revenue and profits per partner last year thanks in part to a large contingency fee, according to The American Lawyer‘s reporting.
The Denver-based firm’s gross revenues climbed 22 percent, to $248.5 million, and its PPP jumped 23 percent, to $550,000, in 2012—a sharp turnaround from the 2.5 percent increase in gross revenues and 3 percent dip in profits the firm recorded the previous year.
The contingency fee came as the result of the firm’s work on behalf of approximately 118 Idaho farmers who sued the federal Bureau of Land Management and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company in 2003 for damage allegedly inflicted on their crops when the DuPont herbicide Oust drifted onto their land.
After finding that the government agency had acted negligently by using Oust to control weeds on public lands and holding DuPont responsible for selling a defective and dangerous product without adequate warnings, the federal jury hearing the case in U.S. district court in Boise awarded a total of $17 million to four bellwether clients in 2009. After a series of appeals and posttrial motions by the defendants, the case was resolved in late 2011 for an undetermined amount.
Holland & Hart managing partner Thomas O’Donnell says that though the contingency fee, whose size he declined to reveal, certainly bolstered the firm’s bottom line, it wasn’t the only factor behind last year’s financial rebound.
"Adjusting for [the contingency fee], we still had a nice solid year," says O’Donnell, who adds that "things are bouncing back slowly across the practice areas." Setting aside the contingency fee, he says, most of those areas increased their revenues in the 3–4 percent range. "We’re plenty pleased with the performance."
Holland & Hart’s overall attorney head count, meanwhile, rose just 4 percent, to 409 lawyers; its equity partnership ranks grew from 203 to 207; and its revenue per lawyer increased 18 percent, to $605,000. The firm had nine nonequity partners in 2012, up from just two the previous year.
Asked whether the contingency fee was worth the decadelong wait, O’Donnell replies: "We’re not a plaintiffs mass tort contingency firm. We feel really good about the work we did for the client. But it’s not part of our business model."
This report is part of The Am Law Daily‘s early coverage of 2012 financial results of The Am Law 100/200. See our interactive chart. Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer‘s May 2013 issue and on AmericanLawyer.com. The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.