The top Washington law firms found themselves clustered far behind the nation’s richest firms last year, according to a financial survey released by NLJ affiliate The American Lawyer on Monday.
None of the 12 Washington-based firms qualified as one of the “Super Rich firms” that pulled in average profits per partner of more than $2 million, The American Lawyer reported. Most of the “Super Rich” firms were based in New York and posted profits per partner closer to $3 million.
All but one of the D.C. firms’ profits per partner ranged between $900,000 and $1.5 million.
Analyst Steve Nelson of recruitment firm The McCormick Group reported recently that, of the firms he has studied, New York law firms have become more efficient than Washington firms since 2008.
“Interestingly, the results were much different on the revenue side,” he wrote. “Eight New York-based firms have seen overall revenues decline since 2008, while only one D.C.-based firm has reported a decline in revenues.”
At the same time, New York firms have expanded their D.C. presence, especially after the Dodd-Frank Act and other measures brought a windfall of regulatory work. For instance, Boies, Schiller & Flexner hired some key Washington players recently and won big in 2013 with a contingency windfall.
Washington’s biggest success last year was Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, whose $1.8 million in profits per equity partner compared to Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr at $1.5 million and Williams & Connolly with $1.45 million. Akin chairwoman Kim Koopersmith cited a year of curtailed expansion while the firm absorbed a mass of laterals brought in during 2012.
Other firms, including Covington & Burling, focused on expansion and investment. Other firms, such as Arnold & Porter and Steptoe & Johnson LLP, saw tepid results that they attributed to a generally stagnant legal environment.
Of the 12 D.C. firms surveyed, only one, Hogan Lovells, was structured as a verein—an international organization governed in a looser way than the traditional partnerships. Hogan’s profitability ranked in the top half among the six vereins nationally on the 2013 list. Although Baker & McKenzie and DLA Piper were more profitable (and topped The American Lawyer’s ranking by revenue), Hogan’s profits per partner were $1.21 million.
The articles below examined why 2013 went so well for these firms—or how they’ve held on to slipping revenue:
- Akin Gump “Firing on All Cylinders”
- Arnold & Porter Posts First Gross Revenue Decline in Two Decades
- Covington’s Profits Per Partner Dip
- Modest Growth at Crowell & Moring
- With Revenue and Net income Up, Hogan Lovells Has ‘Best Year Ever’
- Steptoe Profits Fall in 2013
- A Banner Year for Venable
- Another $1 Billion Year for Wilmer Cutler
The NLJ has also written about the 2013 financial results of four other firms who are not on the Am Law 100:
- Arent Fox Sets Firm Record for Gross Revenue
- Sharp Drop in Dickstein Net Income
- Patton Boggs Will Survive, Even With More Reductions, Managing Partner Says
- Wiley Rein Sees Year of Steady Revenue, Income
Contact Katelyn Polantz at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @kpolantz.