Carlton Fields reported a double-digit increase in partner profits amid a slight decline in head count and growth in gross revenue.
Its profits per equity partner increased 15.5 percent to $782,000, and its net income saw a 15.8 percent increase to $46.9 million. The Florida-based firm’s revenues grew by 4.4 percent to $182 million, according to ALM data.
Carlton Fields’ president and CEO, Gary Sasso, said the firm was able to substantially increase its profits despite the smaller increase in revenues because it has kept to its mission of staying lean and efficient.
“We’re not trying to be a mega-firm,” said Sasso, adding that they’ve turned down multiple merger and acquisition offers in recent years. “Firms over 500 attorneys have problems with scale and conflicts of interest, and I think our strategy has been paying off.”
In the end, there’s no “silver bullet” to profit growth, said Sasso. Strong attorney and key staff hires, including an in-house legal project management consultant to help manage costs, are important, he said.
Carlton Fields’ head count contracted by 10 attorneys, or 3.5 percent, last year, a fact that Sasso said he isn’t concerned about. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez left the firm in June to join Greenspoon Marder, and shareholder Raul Cuervo left in November to sit as a judge on the Miami-Dade County Court.
But the firm also saw some additions, most notably former K&L Gates attorney Lee Stapleton and entertainment litigator Steven Weisburd.
The start of 2019 has been mixed, as well. A whopping 18 attorneys, including name partners James Jorden and Frank Burt, left for Drinker Biddle & Reath in March, forcing the firm to remove Jorden and Burt from the official firm name.
But the firm has already picked up 20 attorneys, said Sasso, netting a positive for the firm. Looking toward 2019, Sasso said that Carlton will likely be net positive in head count as it continues a calculated geographic expansion.
Carlton Fields opened a New Jersey office with five Bressler, Amery & Ross attorneys in January, and Sasso also pointed to Texas as a strong area of growth. The firm has more than 100 Texas clients that bring a diversified portfolio of work in areas including health care, energy, real estate and corporate.
“We’ve been looking at that market for a number of years,” said Sasso. “We’ll get there, but there’s no hurry.”