Drinker Biddle & Reath saw its gross revenue and profits per equity partner (PPP) dip slightly in 2013, but executive partner Andrew C. Kassner still called it a “fine year,” considering it began with a slow start in corporate work and ended with inclement weather and inconveniently placed holidays hampering litigation.
The firm’s gross revenue dipped by about 1 percent, from $392 million in 2012 to $388 million in 2013.
Its PPP dipped by about 1.4 percent, from $715,000 in 2012 to $705,000 in 2013, though its equity partner tier decreased by one lawyer, from 188 to 187.
The firm’s nonequity partnership tier grew by 6.9 percent, from 58 lawyers to 62 lawyers.
Kassner said the first quarter was sluggish on the transactional side due to a number of factors.
Part of it, according to Kassner, was the comedown after the flurry of activity that capped 2012 in anticipation of the fiscal cliff tax deadline.
But economic unrest in other parts of the world, including Europe, Syria and South America, also contributed to the slow corporate practice in early 2013, Kassner said.
“A lot of companies decided to hold onto their cash at the beginning of the year,” Kassner said.
However, according to Kassner, the end of 2013 made up for the slow start, with the firm closing 25 large deals in the fourth quarter alone, including Ansell Limited’s $615 million acquisition of BarrierSafe Solutions International.
Kassner said that momentum has since carried over into the first quarter of 2014, during which the firm’s corporate practice has closed more than 20 deals.
“I like what I’m seeing on the business side,” Kassner said.
The end of 2013 was not quite as kind to the firm’s litigation practice, however, though Kassner said that was largely due to trial delays caused by a mix of severe winter weather and the fact that Christmas and New Year’s Day both fell mid-week.
Kassner said his firm was particularly impacted by the snow and ice because most of its largest offices are located in the Northeast.
“We got crushed,” Kassner said.
Still, Kassner said the firm’s 50-50 split between litigation and business practices enabled it to remain nearly flat across most of its key metrics in 2013, as litigation picked up when transactional work was slow and vice versa.
Kassner added that, like the firm’s corporate lawyers, its litigators have been busy in the first quarter of 2014.
And while the firm’s litigation and business sides, in general, had their ups and downs in 2013, Kassner said several practices enjoyed active years.
Kassner said the firm’s health care industry practice was “very strong” in 2013, as were its pharmaceutical litigation, consumer and employment class action, white-collar criminal defense and corporate investigations and telecommunications practices.
Another successful endeavor for Drinker Biddle in 2013, Kassner said, was the firm’s newly rebranded subsidiary, Tritura, an e-discovery and legal technology services company.
The company was originally launched in 2012 under the name Drinker Discovery Solutions, with the initial aim of providing e-discovery services for litigation.
But Kassner said the company quickly expanded to include other services, such as data migration and technology consulting, and was thus rebranded.
Kassner said Tritura has generated “significant revenue” for the firm.
As with its financial metrics, the firm’s headcount numbers in 2013 were, for the most part, nearly flat.
Its total headcount in 2013 fell just one lawyer from 572 to 571.
Meanwhile, its revenue per lawyer (RPL) dipped by 0.7 percent, from $685,000 in 2012 to $680,000 in 2013.
But Kassner said the firm’s headcount has grown since its Jan. 31 fiscal year ended.
Among the new additions so far in 2014 is James H. Millar, who joined the firm’s bankruptcy and corporate restructuring practice group from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in New York in March. Earlier this month, the firm also brought aboard intellectual property partner Ashley Pezzner and six other IP attorneys to its Wilmington, Del., office from Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg.
Kassner said the Wilmington office is a key location for the firm because Delaware is a national destination for bankruptcy, corporate litigation and IP work.
Looking ahead, Kassner said the firm plans to continue focusing its expansion efforts in the United States, particularly on growing in “talent-rich” markets like New York and Los Angeles.
But Kassner, noting the amount of lateral movement that tends to occur in those markets, said the firm will try to be smart about hiring lawyers who are likely to stay with the firm for more than just a few years.
“We don’t want to just have a hotel for lawyers,” Kassner said, adding that the firm would also be willing to look beyond those major legal markets if the right hiring opportunity presented itself.
“If we see someone that is really going to advance us, we could go to another market,” Kassner said.
As for whether the firm would consider opening more offices overseas beyond its current London location, Kassner referred to that question as “the great debate.”
“The so-called experts tell me that the global firms will have the advantage, but why is it I hear [clients] have found that the work product at many of those firms’ overseas offices is not to the level they expected?” Kassner said.
Kassner said building and maintaining offices outside of the United States is not something to be taken lightly and, while “well over 10 percent” of Drinker Biddle’s work comes from overseas clients, the firm is in no rush to open more international offices.
“We have very strong relationships with firms across the globe,” Kassner said.