Revenue per lawyer also grew 4 percent in 2017, to $760,000, up from $731,000 the year before. Profits per partner at the Am Law 100 firm, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, also grew 5.6 percent, reaching $1.634 million in 2017, up from $1.547 million the year prior.
Greenberg Traurig CEO Brian Duffy credits a strong, successful year for the firm’s clients as spurring its financial success in 2017.
“It was a broad-based and deep, strong year for Greenberg Traurig,” said Duffy, who was elevated to the CEO role in 2016.
He noted that the firm saw increased performances across all practice groups and industries and throughout all of its offices, particularly in Europe, where Greenberg Traurig has made the strategic decision to invest in key markets such as Amsterdam, Berlin, London and Warsaw.
Greenberg Traurig, which was founded in Miami in 1967 with just a handful of lawyers, watched its head count hit 1,944 worldwide in 2017, up 3.2 percent from the year prior. However, the firm did see a slight dip in its number of equity partners, which dipped 3.2 percent last year, to 298, down from 308 in 2016.
Part of the decrease was attributable to several of its partners being tapped for several key positions within the Trump administration. In March 2017, Greenberg Traurig partner Eric Hargan in Chicago was appointed deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, while partner Robert Charrow was tapped in June to become general counsel at the DHHS. And after much debate and speculation, Greenberg Traurig partner Geoffrey Berman was officially appointed in January as interim U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a seat previously held by Preet Bharara.
Despite those departures, Greenberg Traurig was quite active in the lateral market in 2017. The firm welcomed back former corporate and transactions partner Benjamin Aguilera to its ranks in Phoenix last October, the same month that Greenberg Traurig expanded its real estate practice in Florida with a trio of hires in its home state.
Greenberg Traurig also grew its real estate practice in Denver and Los Angeles late last year by bringing on land use and land development partners Ellen Berkowitz and Brady McShane from Sunshine State-based rival Akerman. Greenberg Traurig also tacked on tacked on LeClairRyan’s Lee Albanese and Brian Petrequin as corporate partners for its office in Morristown, New Jersey.
Looking abroad, Greenberg Traurig bolstered its Warsaw office last year with the addition of an 11-lawyer real estate team from Hogan Lovells that included the latter’s former local practice head Jolanta Nowakowska-Zimoch. The move came a little more than a year after Greenberg Traurig backed away from a potential merger with British firm Berwin Leighton Paisner.
“At the end of the day the finances and the fact that we had such a strong financial year in 2017 is just reflective of the talent of the firm and great lawyers who do fantastic work for wonderful clients,” said Duffy, who is part of a new management team at Greenberg Traurig, which saw longtime leader Richard Rosenbaum move into the new role of executive chairman. “Then the financial performance follows.”
But not all of Greenberg Traurig’s clients were a boon to the firm last year. In December, the firm found itself owed more than $1.4 million by bankrupt energy services and water treatment provider RDX Technologies Corp., while the bankruptcy earlier this year of another client, insurer Patriot National Inc., left Greenberg Traurig out another $779,230.
Nonetheless, Greenberg Traurig had plenty of lucrative matters to offset such setbacks, even forking over $15,000 to start the new year by sponsoring a prize-winning goat.
The firm landed a lead role in December representing Australian mall owner and operator Westfield Corp. Ltd. in its roughly $25 billion sale to Unibail-Rodamco SE. Greenberg Traurig also advised longtime client Exactech Inc. on the medical device company’s $640 million sale to private equity firm TPG Capital Management LP.
In addition to those deals, Greenberg Traurig continued to represent the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) in issues related to the utility’s ongoing bankruptcy. The city of Hartford, Connecticut, also hired the firm to navigate its potential Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing.
Despite roles for these clients and other high-profile matters, Rosenbaum said his firm’s success isn’t merely tied to such engagements.
“We always focus on two concepts, which today everybody’s trying to focus on: excellence in what you do [and] value,” Rosenbaum said.
Value means a lot of things, he added, including a focus on cost, but it also means focus on relationships and other ways of helping your clients.
“We don’t focus on just doing a deal or a litigation for a client, we focus on long-term relationships,” Rosenbaum said.