(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart reported another year of healthy revenue gains in 2016, while continuing to add lawyers and one new international outpost.
Revenue increased 7 percent to $427 million at the labor and employment firm. Head count rose by 38 lawyers for a total of 759, a 5.2 percent increase. That pushed up revenue per lawyer by a smaller amount—RPL grew 1.8 percent to $565,000.
Ogletree’s average profit per partner jumped $25,000 to $685,000, thanks to a 13.6 percent increase in net income to $121 million.
The 2016 results follow a 7 percent revenue increase and a 15 percent profit increase in 2015.
The firm’s managing shareholder, C. Matthew Keen, said he was pleased with the year. “It was another very strong year for us, as was 2015, so we’re seeing consistent growth from the firm,” he said, noting that the firm beat the Am Law 100′s average of 4.3 percent revenue growth last year.
Demand, measured in hours billed, increased 4.7 percent last year, Keen said.
Over the past five years, Ogletree has steadily climbed up the ranks of the Am Law 100, which lists the highest grossing U.S. firms—from No. 109 in 2011 to No. 77 last year—due to continual gains in revenue and head count.
In that time, the firm’s revenue has grown by 58.4 percent, and head count has grown by 39.8 percent. RPL has increased $70,000, from $495,000 to $565,000.
The $180,000 jump in PPP over that five-year span was more than double the RPL increase—from $505,000 in 2011 to last year’s $685,000.
Keen attributed some of last year’s profit growth to having investments in new offices pay off.
“We spent a number of years expanding the system of offices,” he said. “The work is growing into that system that we have built out, so revenue increases and investment are somewhat stabilized, which leads to a better bottom line.”
Ogletree opened only one office last year, in Toronto, with two shareholders from international firm Gowling WLG. That said, the firm has already added three offices this year, in Paris, Sacramento and Oklahoma City. It boasts 52 locations overall, with all but five inside the United States.
Keen said the firm added 15 lateral shareholders last year, and it has already added another 14 this year, including nine recruits to existing offices.
“Most of the offices are continuing to grow and add lawyers, which means we are increasing revenue [even] without adding offices. It’s healthy growth throughout the system,” Keen said.
Another factor in profit growth, he said, is that “we are doing a better job of managing the business of a law firm.”
He said the firm has made big investments in knowledge management technology and is realizing the gains, especially in fixed fee work. That includes making responses to government agencies, such as drafting position statements and responses to EEOC charges, Keen said.
These are “high-volume tasks that we perform for clients on a regular basis,” he said, using flat-fee pricing and often with staff attorneys.
Keen said work for the firm’s immigration practice “is exploding.” Other busy practices include class actions, workplace safety, employee benefits and traditional labor matters.
In a much-watched labor law case filed in March 2016, Ogletree is representing the National Federation of Independent Business in a challenge to the Department of Labor over its “persuader rule,” instituted under the Obama administration, which would require employers to report when they seek assistance from consultants and law firms in fighting unionization drives.
A federal judge for the Northern District of Texas ruled for the NFIB in November and issued a permanent injunction blocking enforcement of the rule. The decision is on appeal to the Fifth Circuit, and the rule is stayed nationally pending further action.
Asked how the Trump administration might affect labor and employment law, Keen forecast more activity at the state level.
“Over time, [the administration] might affect some of the regulations issued and enforcement activity at the federal level,” Keen said, “but what we’ve been seeing more in recent years is more enforcement at the state level.”
Locally-driven regulations and statutes have also been proliferating, he added, such as local minimum wage and paid leave laws. He also cited Seattle’s new law allowing Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers to unionize. That law went into effect at the start of 2016—the first of its kind in the nation—before a federal judge tentatively blocked it last month.
Meredith Hobbs writes about the Atlanta legal community and the business of law. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @MeredithHobbs