Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s financials dipped in 2013 in every major metric—including a 2.7 percent drop in revenue from the previous year, to $308.5 million. Even so, firm chair John Murphy insists Shook Hardy is right where he’d like it to be.
“I was pretty happy [with 2013] for a couple of reasons,” Murphy says, citing the addition of a few good laterals, the continued elevation of partners into the equity tier, and a “change in mindset from short-term goals based on end-of-year results to more long-term strategic planning.”
Revenue per lawyer at the Kansas City–based firm dropped 3.4 percent, to $700,000, according to data compiled by The American Lawyer, with profits per equity partner down 7.8 percent, to $830,000. Net income fell 6 percent, to $101.5 million.
Even though the numbers were down compared to 2012, Murphy says they ended up slightly above what the firm’s projections had been.
The lateral hires that Murphy mentions include two former Shook lawyers who returned to the firm as partners in 2013 from major firm clients: John Fraser, a former deputy general counsel at Philip Morris in London, and Bart Eppenauer, a longtime Microsoft lawyer who most recently served as the technology company’s chief patent counsel.
With Eppenauer’s hire, Shook Hardy established what is currently a one-attorney office in Seattle to be closer to Microsoft, which it represents primarily in patent prosecution and intellectual property litigation matters, as well as other Pacific Northwest clients including Beaverton, Ore.–based Nike.
In total, the firm named nine new equity partners last year, including six promoted from within Shook Hardy’s ranks. A handful of partners left the firm for competitors, with three others opening their own firms, three going in-house, and five retiring. All told, the net number of equity partners rose from 120 to 122, with overall attorney headcount also rising by two, to 440.
Shook Hardy depends less on lateral hiring than other Am Law 200 firms—the firm brought on four partners total last year—which Murphy says stems from his view that “just adding revenue, in my mind, doesn’t always make a lot of sense.”
Instead, the firm has been conducting an office-to-office analysis of what practice areas to emphasize in each of its 11 geographies, he says. Shook Hardy plans to focus on complex litigation, particularly cases with a scientific, technical or medical focus.
The tobacco industry, and Philip Morris in particular, continues to be a primary source of work for the firm. ( In 2012, Shook Hardy stopped taking assignments for Philip Morris competitor Lorillard Tobacco, a decision that resulted in 17 lawyers who handled those matters moving to Hughes Hubbard & Reed.)
In 2013, Shook Hardy lawyers won jury verdicts for Philip Morris USA in seven trials conducted as part of the so-called Engle progeny litigation, which grew out of a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision that broke up a proposed class action against tobacco manufacturers into individual suits. The firm also helped Philip Morris cut down the number of smoking-related cases it faces in West Virginia state court to about 30 from 600 it had potentially faced.
In Missouri, Shook Hardy lawyers won a defense verdict on behalf of Thomas Built Buses Inc. and Freightliner LLC after a jury found that a driver caused a fatal bus crash in 2005, not defective products made by the defendants. The firm’s environmental and toxic tort group also helped negotiate what they say is a favorable settlement on behalf of approximately 100 third-party defendants who have been sued as part of an effort to help cover the cost of remediating the alleged contamination of a system of New Jersey waterways.
Ongoing assignments include representing Boston Scientific in federal multidistrict litigation in West Virginia involving allegedly defective vaginal mesh implants; serving as lead national counsel for flavorings company Firmenich in its defense of individual and class action claims in several states alleging the company’s products gave employees lung disease; and representing Remington Arms in conjunction with a Chicago firm in class actions and other cases around the country.
This report is part of The Am Law Daily’s early coverage of 2013 financial results of The Am Law 100/200. Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer’s May 2014 issue and on AmericanLawyer.com. The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.