Florida-based Carlton Fields maintained steady growth in 2012 with increases in gross revenue and net income despite opening an office in pricey New York City.
Carlton Fields reported a 3 percent jump in gross revenue and a 6 percent increase in net income. Gross revenue rose to $167 million while net income rose to $54 million.
Profits per partner remained flat at $830,000, while total lawyer head count dipped slightly to 276 from 280. The firm added four equity partners and three non-equity partners in 2012. Revenue per lawyer was up 4 percent to $600,000.
President and CEO Gary Sasso attributed the firm’s ability to grow and prosper despite sizable expenses with the New York opening and its lawyers picking up 1,200 new clients.
"We offset that expense with revenue growth, and we are very careful in managing our expenses," he said. "We’re very growth-minded, but it’s not just about the number of offices or head count or gross revenues. It’s about the quality of client relationships. We compete effectively against the competition."
Sasso also said the firm does not skimp on training its lawyers.
"We invest a lot in the professional development of partners," he said. "We teach them legal skills, but we also have one-on-one coaching with lawyers that pays dividends and leads to profitability."
Sasso declined to say whether Carlton plans to continue expanding outside Florida. The firm, once a Florida-only firm with offices in Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Tampa and West Palm Beach, made a strategic decision in recent years to expand outside the state. Carlton now has offices in Atlanta and New York.
Over the last six years, Carlton Fields grew its lawyer head count by 21 percent, gross revenue by 52 percent, revenue per lawyer by 22 percent and profits per partner by 33 percent. The firm weathered the recession well, experiencing just one flat year in 2009 and no profit-losing years.
Almost two-thirds of the firm’s business is driven by litigation.
"Carlton Fields reminds us of the Shutts & Bowens, the GrayRobinsons," said Joe Ankus, a legal recruiter with Weston-based Ankus Consulting. "While Carlton is pushing outside Florida, their roots are as a stable, consistent, conservative Florida firm."
Abbe Bunt, another legal recruiter, called Carlton’s results "on the average to good side of the normal bell curve."
"There is nothing that raises alarms," said Bunt of Bunt Legal Search in Hollywood. "They’ve been able to go out of state and not have the initial glitches other firms have had. This is a good sign and underscores their conservative approach."
Sasso, Carlton’s managing partner for six years, runs for re-election every year and has no plans to step down.