Goodwin Procter registered small increases in both gross revenues and profits per partner in 2012, with the former rising 3 percent, to $715.5 million, and the latter inching up 1 percent, to roughly $1.52 million, according to Recorder sibling publication The American Lawyer‘s reporting.
Despite the modest gains in the two key categories, the Boston-based firm’s total attorney headcount grew at a slightly faster pace than its revenues last year, pushing revenue per lawyer down 0.5 percent, to $920,000. All told, Goodwin’s head count was up by 23 lawyers last year, to 777.
Interviewed by sibling publication The Am Law Daily Monday, firm chair Regina Pisa appeared to take little comfort in Goodwin’s ability to squeeze out more overall revenue and higher profits in 2012 amid a year-over-year drop in demand for legal services. "Given the economic environment I say, ‘Yahoo,’" Pisa said. "But I look at other firms and see their results and I say, ‘That doesn’t compare [well].’"
Pisa cited securities, white-collar and business litigation — all which enjoyed revenue increases of roughly 10 percent — as Goodwin’s standout performers, while describing the firm’s transactional practices as having a much more mixed year.
Traditionally strong in the real estate capital markets sector, Goodwin is poised to benefit from a resurgence in REIT transactions in 2013, Pisa said. One potential sign that a rebound on that front is afoot: the deal announced in November 2012 in which Goodwin lawyers are advising Arlington, Va.-based AvalonBay Communities Inc. on its purchase of a 40 percent stake in apartment operator Archstone Enterprise from Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Pisa said the firm’s technology companies practice also had a solid 2012, advising on 500 venture capital fundings, 70 M&A transactions and eight initial public offerings. She said she expects another healthy infusion of IPO work in 2013.
On the expense side of the ledger, Pisa noted that Goodwin spent $10 million on a technology overhaul in 2012 that dragged down profits last year but that she expects will yield long-term savings.
The firm’s equity partnership shrank for the second year in a row in 2012. After shedding 13 equity partners in 2011, the firm lost six more last year and now has 193. The number of non-equity partners, meanwhile, jumped nearly 15 percent in 2012, to 124.
Pisa said the partner headcount changes were not the product of a planned restructuring and that Goodwin has never undertaken such an effort. She added that the firm currently has nine partners in various stages of retirement and that six more will hit Goodwin’s mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2013. She also said the firm has begun to bring in lateral hires as non-equity partners to "test the waters" before giving them equity status.
Some of last year’s equity partner losses were not the result of natural attrition. As The Am Law Daily reported at the time, litigation partners Kenneth Parsigian, Gwyn Williams and William "B.J." Trach departed in October for Latham & Watkins’ Boston office, with Parsigian — who has handled product liability and class action matters for Altria and Philip Morris International — joining Latham as the chair of the firm’s Boston litigation department. As The Recorder reported, October also saw Goodwin lose real estate partner Paul Churchill, the former head of the firm’s San Francisco office, who left to head up Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo’s office in that city.
Goodwin, Pisa noted, continued to make lateral hires of its own last year. She pointed specifically to the firm’s ongoing effort to beef up its London office, a push that included the May hiring of Joe Condor, the former co-global head of Linklaters real estate sector group, and the addition of Allen & Overy tax partner Ben Eaton in November.
Pisa said Goodwin is starting 2012 immersed in a round of strategic planning aimed at boosting the firm’s top-line revenue growth.
"This firm is not about financial engineering. We don’t fool around with the numerators or the denominators," she said, adding that the findings will be shared at an April all-partners retreat. "We as a firm, if the industry is at 3.6 [percent growth] we want to be at 5.6 or 7. When we look at 3 percent we’re not happy with that."
Ross Todd is a senior reporter with The American Lawyer, a Recorder affiliate. This report is part of Recorder parent company ALM’s early coverage of 2012 financial results of The Am Law 100/200. Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 and 200 will be published later this year.