Washington Wrap is a weekly look at industry news and Big Law moves shaping the legal business in Washington, D.C. Send news tips and lateral moves to Ryan Lovelace at email@example.com.
Washington, D.C.’s declining demand is producing lackluster revenue and net income growth, according to new data recorded by Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group.
Demand increased at 61 percent of the 191 firms Citi studied nationwide, but demand decreased at 62 percent of D.C. firms analyzed by Citi. The 0.9 percent drop in demand in D.C. was matched by only one other region—Texas—surveyed by Citi. Revenue growth in D.C. was up 2.9 percent last year, besting only Texas among the regions in Citi’s survey.
While Citi saw inventory growth in D.C. at the end of 2018 that foreshadows favorable results for 2019, Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group senior client adviser John Wilmouth said firms with struggling demand have sought to make adjustments.
“Some are going out and essentially buying the demand by picking up laterals [to fill holes or add new practices],” Wilmouth said. “Other firms are also focusing on business development efforts in their existing client base.”
Wilmouth said D.C. firms proved adept at expense management in 2018, particularly by keeping total lawyer compensation growth in D.C. at approximately 3.1 percent amid last summer’s associate salary arms race.
He pointed to declining partnership head count as helping keep net income flat across the district (it grew just 0.1 percent), and he said D.C. grew its billing rates 5.5 percent in 2018.
Citi’s analysis splits the U.S. into 11 different regions and attributes firm results to the city where a firm is headquartered, so legal business in Washington via firms with roots in other locales is not captured. Citi’s survey results are largely consistent with a recent review from Wells Fargo’s law firm lending and advisory unit. Wells Fargo’s analysis of Mid-Atlantic firms, including those inside the Beltway, saw revenues up 0.8 percent year-over-year in 2018 and net income down approximately 1 percent.
Washington’s sluggish results come at a rip-roaring time for the rest of the market. Citi’s survey showed a market scoring its best results in a decade, and a Thompson Reuters report released this week showed law firms across the board witnessed their largest growth in demand since 2011.
Law Firm Moves, News & Notes
Francis Biden, brother of former Vice President Joe Biden, has joined The Berman Law Group as senior adviser. The Berman Law Group is a Florida law and government relations boutique.
Angela Styles has joined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld as a partner in its government contracts practice.
Styles spent 10 years at Crowell & Moring and chaired the firm from February 2015 to October 2017, when she was voted out of firm leadership. She then joined Bracewell on Oct. 30, 2017, where she practiced before joining Akin Gump.
Styles previously was partner at Miller & Chevalier and an administrator for federal procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget during President George W. Bush’s administration.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati announced it added Jeffrey Lehtman as partner in the government investigations practice in D.C.
Thompson Coburn’s lobbying & policy practice in D.C. added Kyle Simpson as senior adviser and Jack Jacobson as adviser, the firm said this week.
Both Simpson and Jacobson are arriving from Hogan Lovells, where each worked for more than eight years. Simpson was a senior policy adviser and associate deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy in the 1990s.
Jennifer Carrier and Jennifer Ellison are now principals at Blank Rome Government Relations in Washington, D.C., the firm said this week.
Carrier is also of counsel at Blank Rome and is joining the government relations team to assist clients seeking guidance on issues of campaign finance, elections, ethics, lobbying and tax law.
Ellison was previously a senior adviser at Blank Rome Government Relations, working with defense contractors and commercial entities. She previously was vice president of special sales development at BMW Group.
Thompson Coburn said this week it added Erica Rancilio as partner in its Washington, D.C., office.
Rancilio is joining Thompson Coburn’s energy practice from the boutique Edwards & Floom, where she was partner. She was previously a trial attorney at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s office of administrative litigation.