Roger Quillen, chairman and managing partner, Fisher Phillips, Atlanta (John Disney/Staff)
Fisher & Phillips lawyers were in demand in 2016, helping the firm boost its revenue by a hefty 11.7 percent to $176.5 million.
“We were very pleased with the year,” said the firm’s chairman, Roger Quillen. He added that the increase was in part the payoff of Fisher & Phillips’ growth strategy, including recently-implemented marketing and business development efforts.
Revenue per lawyer increased by $10,000 to $555,000, and profits per partner increased $35,000 to $560,000, reflecting a 6.4 percent increase in net income to $66.5 million.
Quillen said the revenue increase came from a substantial hike in demand—with a 9.9 percent jump in billable hours last year—and, to a lesser extent, rate increases.
Some of the increase in billable hours came from adding more billers. The firm increased head count by 10.1 percent, or 29 lawyers, for 319 attorneys in total. The firm’s equity partner head count was stable at 119. Nonequity partners increased by a net of six lawyers to 48 lawyers.
Quillen estimated that about two-thirds of the growth in 2016 was from new work and another third was from an increase in laterals. “Having new lawyers to handle new work is the best growth,” he said.
“It’s hard to get rate increases from clients,” he added, “but you can still get some for experienced junior lawyers.”
The strong 2016 followed a healthy 2015, when the firm grew revenue 6.8 percent and added 15 lawyers.
Fisher & Phillips instituted programs about four years ago to help lawyers get more work from clients, starting with first years, Quillen said. The programs include training in relationship-building and providing the tools for lawyers to raise their profiles, such as business development managers who can help with writing and seminar opportunities.
Last year. Fisher & Phillips updated its brand: streamlining its name to Fisher Phillips for marketing purposes and launching a punchy new red and white logo, a redesigned website and an assertive new tagline, “On the Front Lines of Workplace Law.”
“The demand increase is the outgrowth of all this,” Quillen said. “Helping our lawyers be more successful and get more work from clients is something we’ve been very intentional about and reinforced over the last four years.”
Fisher & Phillips also added two offices in 2016, in Sacramento and New York City, giving it 33 nationally.
It recruited partner Alden Parker, with associate Katherine Sandberg, from California employment law firm Weintraub Tobin to helm the Sacramento office, which opened last April—the firm’s fifth in California.
The firm launched the Manhattan office in July with a five-lawyer team from rival Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, led by co-managing partners Michael Marra and Brian Gershengorn. Another hire from Ogletree, partner Chris Capone, is practicing from the firm’s already existing Murray Hill, New Jersey office just outside of Manhattan.
“Going into New York with high quality people was a top goal for the firm last year,” Quillen said. Some clients expect a New York presence, he added, especially large national and multinational clients as the practice of law becomes more globalized.
Fisher & Phillips’ other big initiative last year was to launch a human resources consultancy, Foundations Human Resources Consulting, in Lexington, Kentucky, that is a wholly-owned subsidiary. It’s led by Carol Sampson and Stephanie Prewitt, a former human resources manager and assistant general counsel, respectively, for Toyota Motor Corp.’s Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc., a longtime client for the firm.
Quillen explained that companies generally have a human resources consulting budget that is separate from that of their legal department, so this is a way to access that. Bills from the law firm, by contrast, would have to go through a corporate legal department.
The new consultancy has been profitable and Sampson and Prewitt are busy, he added. “We think there are significant growth opportunities there,” Quillen said.
While it’s not clear yet what impact the Trump administration will have on labor and employment law, it’s likely there will be changes.
“We tend to do well in times of change,” Quillen said.
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