Florida-focused GrayRobinson posted increases of 10 percent in gross revenue and 13 percent in net income in 2012.
The Orlando-based firm — the largest Florida-only law firm — reported profits of $66 million, up 13 percent from 2011. Revenue of $133 million was a 10 percent increase from the year before.
"We had one of our best years ever," said Byrd "Biff" Marshall, president and managing director. "I attribute it to not overcharging clients and to all of our lawyers being busy because we don’t have extraordinarily high hourly rates. We added both national and local clients."
While GrayRobinson’s profits per partner, at $430,000, are significantly lower than many other firms, they still jumped 8 percent over 2011.
The firm’s profits per partner lag well behind many other law firms. The difference between the highest paid partner and the lowest paid is a 14-1 spread, compared to 5-1 at other firms, Marshall explained.
"We’re more of a meritocracy," said Marshall, who is in his 21st year heading the firm. "We reward the big producers, but we don’t de-equitize older partners who may not be contributing as much. Other firms de-equitize lawyers to boost their numbers rather than growing their pie."
GrayRobinson has a high percentage of equity partners, 88 percent, with 154 of 176 partners holding equity and sharing $66 million in net income. The firm’s 50 percent profit margin puts it on the higher end of firms with a large Florida presence. The firm added eight equity partners for a 6 percent annual gain, while the number of non-equity partners held steady at 22.
The number of attorneys grew 8 percent in a year, to 278 from 257. Revenue per lawyer was $480,000, up 1 percent in a year.
Like competitors Shutts & Bowen and Gunster, GrayRobinson has no interest in expanding beyond Florida. The firm, which has 10 offices and entered the South Florida market about five years ago, plans to open a West Palm Beach office this quarter.
The firm’s litigation practice continues to be its strongest area, representing 55 percent of its work, with banking next at 20 percent, real estate at 12 percent and bankruptcy at 5 percent.
"Real estate work has definitely bounced back, while corporate continues to be flat," Marshall noted.
The firm also is growing its national alcohol and beverage practice headed by Richard Blau, chairman of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Beverage Alcohol Practice. Other team members include former high-ranking regulators from the federal government, Florida and California.
Joe Ankus, a legal headhunter with Ankus Consulting in Weston, called GrayRobinson’s growth "nothing short of meteoric."
"The snowball keeps rolling down the hill and getting bigger," Ankus said. "Obviously they’re doing something right. Biff Marshall is staying true to his formula of being a Florida-only firm, and it’s obviously working for him."
As for the firm’s lower profit per partner number, Ankus said, "That’s OK because there is a need for firms to have flexibility in their compensation packages. There is no right formula in running a law firm, and if his strategy results in a lower profits per partner, who are we to judge? He is filling a market niche."