Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld posted double-digit gains in profits per partner in 2017, increasing its average payouts by 13.5 percent to $2.4 million during another strong year for lobbying and dealmaking.
“In every way that you are measuring success in a law firm, we had a very strong year,” said Kim Koopersmith, the firm’s chair since 2013.
Gross revenues rose 6.1 percent last year to $1.039 billion, and revenue per lawyer was up 6 percent to $1.14 million. The 858-lawyer firm boasted 195 equity partners in 2017, one short of the previous year.
The firm was the 29th largest U.S. law firm by revenue in The American Lawyer’s 2016 and 2017 Am Law 100 rankings. This year’s ranking will be released in the magazine’s May issue.
Akin Gump has continued to dominate the D.C. lobbying world. Open Secrets’ rankings show it as the highest earner again last year, with $38.7 million in lobbying income in 2017. Lawmakers focused this year on health care and tax reform, issues for which the firm has a strong bench, and that helped fuel the lobbying income gains, Koopersmith said.
But Koopersmith stressed that Akin Gump’s overall financial performance hinges on far more than its legislative-oriented practices.
“We are [a] very well-rounded firm,” she said. “Our corporate practice was on fire all yearlong.”
The firm’s M&A lawyers advised VCA Inc. on its $9.1 billion sale to Mars Inc., 7-Eleven Inc.’s on its purchase of 1,030 Sunoco stores, Sanchez on its $2.3 billion joint-venture acquisition with Anadarko of assets in the South Texas Eagle Ford shale play, and LUKOIL on its $1.45 billion sale of a mining subsidiary.
Litigation victories last year included beating back class certification in a consumer class action against VIZIO Inc. and several wins in contested bankruptcy proceedings, such as for Hercules Offshore Inc. and Icelandic banks’ bondholders. The firm prevailed in a multipronged, multiyear defense of the former AIG Inc. CEO Martin Sullivan, who, after the 2008 recession, had come under the scrutiny of Congress, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and civil plaintiffs.
Akin Gump also continued to gain ground internationally, thanks in part to its late 2014 absorption of a high-profile restructuring team based in London and Frankfurt from the now defunct Bingham McCutchen, Koopersmith said.
“The Bingham acquisition has been extremely successful,” she said. It was “one of the smartest things” that the firm has done under her leadership, which began in 2013, she added.
In 2017, according to ALM Intelligence’s Legal Compass’ database, the firm added 10 lateral partners, including Obama administration officials Howard Sklamberg, the former deputy commissioner for global regulatory operations and policy at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Kevin Wolf, former assistant secretary of commerce for export administration, as well as Courtney York, an M&A lawyer who came from Akin Gump’s Texas rival, Baker Botts.
“We have our eyes open to see if there are ways for us to grow in London,” Koopersmith said.
For now, the firm remains smaller than it was when the financial crisis struck a decade ago. In 2008 the firm had 983 lawyers—125 more than it does now.
“What I have tried to focus on is wise strategic growth,” Koopersmith said. “The growth will come from us identifying client needs, not just because we have a desire to be big,” she said, adding: “I like what our firm looks like now.”