Philadelphia-based Duane Morris saw modest increases in its revenue and profits per equity partner (PPP) in 2012, a fiscal year that Chairman John J. Soroko characterized as "almost an instant replay" of the prior fiscal year in terms of financial growth.
But Soroko told The Legal  that, in an era when legal and financial experts say low single-digit percentage growth annually is healthy, he’s happy with Duane Morris’ performance in 2012.
"We’re pleased we could continue our growth curve," Soroko said, explaining that decreased demand for legal services across the board has forced firms to "work into a headwind."
The firm saw its 2012 gross revenue rise by about 1.2 percent, from $415.5 million in 2011 to $420.5 million in 2012.
By comparison, between 2010 and 2011, the firm saw its revenue grow by about 1.1 percent.
Soroko said one of the main practices that contributed to the firm’s revenue growth in 2012 was intellectual property, and particularly IP litigation.
Soroko said the firm’s IP litigators handled high tech computer and telecommunications matters for clients such as Cisco Systems Inc.
In January, Duane Morris opened a new office in Palo Alto, Calif., with the additions of K&L Gates partner Karineh Khachatourian and associate Patrick S. Salceda.
The new location will focus, to start, on intellectual property litigation.
Soroko told The Legal he’s hopeful the firm will be able to grow the new office quickly and that having a location in the Silicon Valley will help the firm to better service its high tech telecommunications clients.
Along with the IP litigation work the firm did for technology clients in 2012, Soroko said the firm’s generic pharmaceutical IP litigation practice was also robust.
Soroko said the firm’s transactional practice was also "extremely strong" in 2012, particularly during the fourth quarter.
One of the largest deals the firm worked on in 2012 was Heineken N.V.’s $4.6 billion takeover bid for Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd.
Duane Morris & Selvam, the firm’s joint venture in Singapore, represented Heineken in the transaction, which was finalized in November.
Stateside, a team of Duane Morris transactional lawyers represented wholesale motor fuel distributor Lehigh Gas Partners LP in its $138 million initial public offering.
In addition to those deals, Soroko said the "centerpiece" of the firm’s transactional capabilities — its private equity practice — also had a strong year in 2012.
But while the firm grew its revenue last year, it saw a dip of about 5.5 percent in its net income, from $117.5 million in 2011 to $111 million in 2012.
Soroko explained that after being conservative with its expenses throughout 2012, the firm elected to get a headstart on its 2013 expenses toward the end of the year.
For example, Soroko said, the firm paid off all of the expenses it incurred when it hired 16 lawyers from the New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., offices of Dewey & LeBoeuf in May.
"Our numbers could have been better had we dealt with those expenses in due course," Soroko said.
Despite the drop in net income, the firm still saw an increase of about 1.7 percent in its PPP — from $860,000 in 2011 to $875,000 in 2012 — thanks to a 7.3 percent reduction in its equity partner tier, from 137 partners to 127 partners.
But Soroko attributed the shrinking number of equity partners to "natural causes," such as retirements and departures.
"We certainly have never had and certainly did not have this year any program for de-equitizing partners in order to boost our profits per partner," Soroko said, noting that he anticipates the firm’s equity partner tier will now begin to grow again.
The firm’s nonequity partner tier remained flat at 219 attorneys.
Its overall headcount dipped by 1 percent, from 619 total attorneys in 2011 to 613 in 2012.
That, coupled with the firm’s revenue growth, led to about a 2.2 percent increase in revenue per lawyer (RPL), from $670,000 in 2011 to $685,000 in 2012.
None of this is to suggest the firm didn’t do its share of hiring in 2012.
Along with the 16 Dewey & LeBeouf attorneys it brought on board in May and the 10 associates it hired in the fall, the firm also hired corporate partner Piero Carbone to its London office.
Soroko told The Legal that the firm will continue "careful, controlled" expansion of its international presence, either through new office openings or additional joint ventures similar to its arrangement in Singapore.
Soroko said the firm is particularly interested in establishing a presence in Myanmar, which Soroko said has significant potential for Western investment, as well as in China, most likely Shanghai.
As for Singapore, the firm announced in February that its joint venture will partner with Singapore’s Economic Development Board to link the law firm’s clients in the United States and Latin America with business opportunities in Singapore.
Domestically, Soroko said the firm will likely focus on growing its existing U.S. offices, such as Palo Alto, rather than seek out new locations.