Jonathan Eady, Arnall Golden Gregory, Atlanta.

 

It was another solid year for Arnall Golden Gregory in 2017, with increases in revenue and net income that was fueled by real estate work and increased activity for the corporate and litigation practices.

Revenue increased 5.5 percent to $99.1 million and net income increased 8.7 percent to $43.2 million. Meanwhile, Arnall Golden increased average annual lawyer headcount by 5, bringing the total number of lawyers to 150. The firm also added a net of three equity partners, for a total of 46.

That pushed revenue per lawyer (RPL) up by 2 percent, to $661,000 and profits per partner (PPP) up by 1.6 percent, to $939,000.

“We’ve had a very strong run. Each of our past five years has been our best year to date, which puts increasing pressure on the following year, obviously,” said the Atlanta-based firm’s managing partner, Jonathan Eady.

Over the past three years, Arnall Golden’s revenue has increased about 25 percent (from $79.5 million in 2014), RPL has increased 17 percent (from $565,000),  and PPP has jumped 32 percent (from $710,000).

Eady said technology expenditures “continue to grow as a percentage of our expenses, and we project that that will continue over time.” Last year the firm made additional investments in technology to increase the speed and security of systems and automate more systems internally, he said, adding that it will continue to do so in 2018.

The Talent

Arnall Golden promoted four partners—all women—to equity status at the beginning of 2017: Althea Broughton in real estate, Sandra Zayac in public finance, Sara Lord in litigation, government investigations and health care, and Suzanne Tucker Plybon in private wealth.

The firm also promoted eight associates to partner.

“It was a big year as far as transitions to partner and income partner,” Eady said. “We’re a strong believer in promoting from within and nurturing attorneys over their total career life cycle. When they’re ready to make the transition, they do.”

Arnall Golden added two lateral partners last year. Orlando Cabrera, a former assistant secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, joined its affordable housing practice in Washington from Squire Patton Boggs. In Atlanta, Jeff Gordon joined the ERISA practice with Tia Martarella as of counsel from Parker Hudson Rainer & Dobbs.

The firm also had some departures:  In Washington, partner Tom Pahl returned to government in January of 2017 as acting director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. In Atlanta, Ryan Hood joined a firm client, WellStar Health System, as assistant general counsel, and Bob Dow, a securities litigator, left for Maynard Cooper & Gale in Birmingham.

The Work

Real estate was the busiest practice area last year, Eady said, as the firm continued to represent clients on several major mixed-used and hospital development projects.

The firm has been advising Gwinnett Medical Center in its merger with Northside Hospital, which the Georgia attorney general’s office approved last November. After being announced in Sept 2015, the deal is finally expected to close this year.

Arnall Golden is also representing Emory University on its redevelopment of Executive Park into a medical campus, near the North Druid Hills Road and I-85 interchange. The groundbreaking has just been announced for the multifamily component.

The firm is advising several developers on complex mixed-use projects. “Mixed use is a national trend and an area where we do a good bit of work,” Eady said.

It is representing one of the private developers, Healey Weatherholtz Properties, in the public-private Turner Field redevelopment project, which closed in January 2017 when GSU and a partnership of private developers acquired the 68-acre site from the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority. Carter & Associates, Healey Weatherholtz and Oakwood Development plan to build housing, retail and offices on the vast acreage of parking lots on the site.

The firm continues to represent the Integral Group in the massive mixed-use project, Assembly, which Integral is redeveloping on the site of the former General Motors plant in Doraville. Eady, a real estate lawyer, is representing Integral.

Last year Integral closed a deal with mattress-maker Serta Simmons Bedding to acquire a five-acre portion of the site for its new headquarters, which will kick off the first phase of development in the Assembly Yards zone. Tax increment financing for infrastructure construction closed at the beginning of 2017 and as different buildings are constructed, more infrastructure gets built, Eady said.

Arnall Golden is representing Integral on other mixed-use projects elsewhere in the United States. The developer closed last week on initial financing and property acquisition for a large mixed-use project in Dallas called the Trinity Mills Transit Center District, Eady said, after the city of Carrollton, Texas chose Integral as the master developer for the project in January.

The firm handles leasing and other matters for another big developer, California-based Oliver McMillen, on The Shops Buckhead in Atlanta and River Oaks District in Houston.

Eady said activity increased for the corporate, litigation and bankruptcy practices.

While bankruptcy work has slowed down nationally, Eady said Arnall Golden represents companies such as Sysco and American Express that are business-to-business service providers and thus “regularly find themselves as creditors in bankruptcy proceedings.”

The firm is defending background screening companies, including First Advantage, in litigation brought by plaintiffs under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

It is representing Worldpay and other payments processors in commercial disputes.

Arnall Golden’s work for companies in government investigations and False Claim Act matters continues to be busy, Eady said, noting that the Trump administration has continued to bring whistleblower-initiated actions under the FCA.

“In most areas this administration has been less engaged as a regulator, but that does not seem to be the case for government investigations in the False Claims Act space,” Eady said, noting that a private party whistleblower, not the government, can trigger an investigation and that there are financial incentives for whistleblowing.

The changes to the federal tax law “have created opportunities and time investments for our traditional tax folks and our private wealth folks,” he added. “Frankly, I think the market is still trying to figure out what the heck [the changes] do.”