Kim Koopersmith, partner and chairperson, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld ()
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, having just signed a new office lease in Washington, D.C., saw continued growth in all financial metrics in 2016.
The firm’s gross revenue rose 5.4 percent, to $980 million, after Akin Gump spent much of last year focusing on building up its core practice areas. The firm began last year under the basic premise that its strategy would be to focus on its strengths, said Akin Gump chair Kim Koopersmith.
“I think that’s paid off,” she said this week.
Revenue per lawyer was up 4.6 percent, from almost $1.1 million in 2015, to $1.15 million in 2016. A decrease in the number of Akin Gump equity partners—from 210 in 2015 to 196 last year—helped profits per partner at the firm jump 9.7 percent, to $2.1 million in 2016, up from $1.9 million the year before.
Despite the tumultuousness and uncertainty on Capitol Hill, Akin Gump held on to its title as the nation’s highest-paid lobbying firm, pulling in $36.17 million in 2016, down from $39.38 million the year before, according to a report last month.
“Having very strong regulatory practices and [the] leading, largest policy practice was a definite virtue for the firm,” Koopersmith said.
The public policy practice runs deep at Akin Gump. The firm’s legendary and late co-founder, Robert Strauss, served as chairman of the Democratic Party from 1972 to 1977. Strauss is the namesake of the Robert S. Strauss Tower in Washington, D.C., a newly-renamed office building on K Street that will house Akin Gump’s 230 lawyers in the nation’s capital starting in 2019.
At the beginning of 2016, Akin Gump added former Democratic North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan as a senior policy consultant. Nine days before the presidential election, Akin Gump brought on G. Hunter Bates, a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, from a boutique Republican lobbying shop that he co-founded called Republic Consulting. Former Akin Gump litigation partner Raphael “Rafi” Prober re-joined the firm last month as co-leader of its congressional investigations practice after two years at the U.S. Department of Justice.
“You can notice the theme here that we are investing heavily in our regulatory capabilities and our policy capabilities,” Koopersmith said.
The firm also brought on international trade practitioners to help Akin Gump bridge trade activity involving the U.S., U.K. and European Union after last summer’s so-called Brexit referendum.
Jasper Helder, former chair of Baker McKenzie’s Europe, Middle East and Americas international trade practice group, joined Akin Gump’s London office in the beginning of December. Kevin Wolfe, who led the Obama Administration’s export reforms efforts, also joined the firm’s international trade practice last month in Washington, D.C. (Akin Gump, which saw a recent lateral hire land in legal trouble last week, did see international trade partner Tamer Soliman leave its inside the Beltway base this week to become global head of export control and sanctions at Mayer Brown.)
Koopersmith, Akin Gump’s leader since 2012, also noted that the firm’s financial restructuring and energy groups were also strong performers in 2016. Akin Gump absorbed a high-profile financial restructuring team in London and Frankfurt in late 2014 from now-defunct Bingham McCutchen. Nonetheless, Akin Gump saw gross revenue for its London arm dip to $87.9 million last year, down from $91.4 million in 2015.
Akin Gump had a role in several billion-dollar energy deals, including oil and gas giants Diamondback Energy and Gulfport Energy acquisitions of key production zones in Texas and Oklahoma, respectively.
“We are all [trying] to sort out what’s going to be different in the months ahead in terms of very different policies on a lot of industries and areas of the law that matter to our clients,” Koopersmith said. “We’re trying to be nimble and able to reflect those changes.”
She added that Akin Gump plans on continuing this kind of strategic growth into 2017. Part of that plan includes the firm’s commitment to pro bono work. Last year, Akin Gump held the highest spot among Texas firms on The American Lawyer’s 2016 pro bono report and ranked 30th among 151 U.S. firms on the Am Law 200 for its pro bono efforts.
“We like the strategy that we have and we think it’s working really well for us,” Koopersmith said. “We think that’s reflected not just in the numbers but in our clients’ confidence in us as a go-to firm for high value work.”