Don Pongrace of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Don Pongrace of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ)

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has reclaimed the top spot among lobbying revenue leaders in Washington following a one-year hiatus.

Pulling in $103.7 million from government advocacy in 2013, Akin Gump edged out Patton Boggs to lead the Influence 50, The National Law Journal’s annual survey of the lobbying industry. Patton Boggs, which merged with Squire Sanders in June, ranked second. The firm, which grappled last year with layoffs and declining revenue, reported $97.2 million in lobbying income.

Akin Gump and Patton Boggs, the only firms to bring in more than $90 million last year, claimed about 16 percent of the $1.26 billion in revenue collected by Influence 50 firms. Overall, these 50 firms experienced a 4.1 percent increase in government-affairs income compared with the revenue total in last year’s survey.

Akin Gump’s lobbying income was up by 3.6 percent while Patton Boggs’ declined by 8.6 percent, according to our reporting. The firm was active in work that included taxation, international trade and patent reform.

“It’s really not dependent on any one particular factor,” Akin Gump partner Donald Pongrace, leader of the firm’s public law and policy practice, said of its increase in income.

The Influence 50 takes a measure of all fees related to lobbying. The survey includes revenues reported to Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and to the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We asked firms to provide information about state and local lobbying by their Washington-area offices, plus related work that includes representation of clients before federal agencies or grassroots organizing.

Of the 46 shops that made the Influence 50 in 2013, 33 saw growth in their revenue and 11 saw declines; two experienced no change. Patton Boggs was the only law firm to post a decline.

LOST HEAD COUNT

Patton Boggs lost 38 lobbyists from its head count and terminated its lobbying contracts with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Microsoft Corp., Visa Inc. and more than 75 other clients in 2013, according to government records and Influence 50 data.Firmwide, Patton Boggs posted revenue in 2013 of $278 million, 12.4 percent less than the previous year, according to statistics published by NLJ affiliate The American Lawyer. Since the beginning of 2013, the firm has lost more than 100 attorneys.

Squire Patton Boggs did not agree to an interview, but in a statement Edward Newberry, Patton Boggs’ former managing partner and a global managing partner at Squire Patton Boggs, touted his new firm’s strengths in the lobbying arena.

“Looking ahead, our focus is on what we can achieve through our recent merger, which integrates over 50 years of expertise in governmental decision-making with a leading global platform,” he said. “The influence business has changed dramatically to include not just policy and regulation, but major disputes and transactions taking place around the world. Our ability to serve clients on a global basis puts us in unique territory.”

Akin Gump landed in exclusive terrain by at least one measure: It was the only one to have at least three traditional lobbying clients that paid it more than $1 million each last year, congressional records show.

The Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform was among them. The organization, which counts 3M Co., Eli Lilly & Co. and General Electric Co. among its members, last year gave Akin Gump lobbyists $1.1 million, $800,000 more than in 2012. The increase came during the months before patent litigation reform bills were introduced in the House and Senate in late 2013.

Akin Gump also last year boosted its lobbying power with the addition of senior counsel Gregory Guice, who served as legislative affairs director at the Federal Communications Commission. In 2013, Guice lobbied for Gila River Telecommunications Inc. on American Indian telecom matters and the Private Equity Growth Capital Council on financial-services issues.

The bump in income and lobbying strength followed a down year in revenue for Akin Gump on the Influence 50. But the decrease was only 3.4 percent between 2011 and 2012. Akin Gump partner Smith Davis, a veteran lobbyist, said small fluctuations in revenue are natural over a short period of time. “We’re pleased with the overall trend,” he said.

Revenue at Grayling, which brought in $7.3 million in lobbying income, dropped by 58.5 percent — the biggest percentage decrease among the Influence 50. The nonlaw firm did not submit a report to The National Law Journal as it did in 2013. The NLJ calculated the loss using data from its last submission and revenue publicly available in Lobbying Disclosure Act and Foreign Agents Registration Act reports from 2013.

The NLJ uses Lobbying Disclosure Act and Foreign Agents Registration Act numbers alone when a firm doesn’t participate. But even using only those publicly available numbers for 2012 and 2013 revenue, Grayling’s income last year declined by 23.2 percent.Grayling last year stopped lobbying for more than two dozen clients, including General Motors Co. and Los Angeles County, according to congressional records. When contacted, Grayling general counsel Joshua Rosenstein said he would try to get a response. Grayling did not respond before press time.

Ogilvy Government Relations, which posted $10.1 million in government-affairs income, experienced a 25.7 percent dip in revenue. The firm reported to Congress that its lobbying contracts ended with nine clients, including the Seneca Nation of Indians and GenOn Energy Inc. Rawson Hart, Ogilvy’s chief administrative officer, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Alston & Bird reported the largest percentage increase — 69.3 percent — and $36.4 million in revenue. Partner Robert Jones, who leads the firm’s legislative and policy group, said Alston & Bird started adding previously unreported income from health care, Federal Communications Commission and environmental advocacy to its Influence 50 total. “We’re building a better baseline to reflect our colleagues’ substantive expertise in their disciplines,” Jones said.

Other ups and downs among the Influence 50 included the absences of the Gephardt Group, Fabiani & Co., Mercury Public Affairs and Wexler & Walker Public Policy. Their departures made way for the American Continental Group, Forbes-Tate, McAllister & Quinn and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, the only new law firm on the list.

James Bonham, chairman of Manatt’s federal government-affairs and public policy practice, said the firm has made a “concentrated effort” to expand its government-advocacy offerings beyond traditional lobbying and include services such as grassroots advocacy. “The market is changing dramatically,” he said.