Perkins Coie posted solid financial growth in 2018 as it continued to invest in key markets and diversifying services for startup clients.
The Seattle-based firm saw its gross revenue jump by 9.6 percent in 2018, to $861.73 million from $785.99 million, while profits per equity partner (PEP) grew by 9.7 percent, to $1.29 million.
The firm’s net income in 2018 climbed 8.1 percent over the prior year to $225.8 million. Revenue per lawyer (RPL) reached $886 million, up 6.4 percent from 2017, amid a 3.1 percent increase in head count to 973.
“We saw particularly strong increases in demand on two of our three largest groups—litigation and business,” managing partner John Devaney said.
Devaney, a longtime litigator who took over the firm leadership role in 2015, added that Perkins Coie also saw demand increase in its smaller practices such as products liability law, political law as well as fintech-related practices.
With 25 lateral partner hires and 26 departures last year, Perkins Coie’s partnership size dropped slightly by 1 percent, from 472 in 2017 to 467 in 2018. The size of the equity partnership also contracted, with 175 equity partners in 2018 compared with 178 in the prior year—a 1.5 percent drop.
Devaney attributed the changes in equity partnership largely to the generational shift the firm is experiencing as baby boomers phase out their practices or retire from the firm. The firm said four equity partners left for in-house positions, six joined other firms and five retired or left the practice of law.
“Our Seattle office, which still accounts for about 25 percent of our total lawyer head count, saw very strong demand, as you probably know the Seattle economy is thriving these days,” Devaney said. And Perkins Coie has grown its Washington, D.C., New York and Dallas offices, as demand for legal services surged in those regions, he added.
Last year, Perkins Coie brought on Valerie Dahiya, a former branch chief in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s division of trading and markets, and Nate Kelley, a former top-ranking official and administrative judge at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in Washington, D.C. Other notable hires included former Morrison & Foerster technology transactions partner John Delaney in New York, former Alston & Bird privacy and data security partner Dominique Shelton in Los Angeles and Christopher Veatch, former chief of the national security and cybercrimes section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, in Chicago.
The Seattle firm has also tapped former DLA Piper Geoff Ossias to lead its Arizona emerging companies and venture capital practice. And it bolstered its China practice by hiring corporate partner James Zimmerman and intellectual property partner Scott Palmer from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton in Beijing.
“We focus on China. All of our international growth was in Beijing,” said Devaney, noting that Perkins Coie does not have any other international offices besides its Chinese operations.
But the firm also suffered a loss related to its China practice, as James Jensen, a Palo Alto partner who led the China emerging company practice and the investment fund formation practice, decided to return to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
Adding to Strengths
Devaney said the firm will keep growing in its major markets, including New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle, and the Bay Area. So far in 2019, Perkins Coie has already added five more lateral partners.
“Practice areas where we are focusing on growing are M&A, private equity, emerging companies, class action litigation, privacy, and fintech,” Devaney added.
But when asked if the firm is considering any mergers, Devaney said there is no immediate plan to do so.
“We value our culture a lot. It would have to be a pretty compelling business case for us to consider a merger,” Devaney said.
Perkins Coie, which was recently ranked by Kruze Consulting as one of the top five law firms for startup clients in terms of its revenue market share, also announced a program called Perkins Coie Client Advantage last year to help their clients with legal operations and business challenges. Devaney said the firm will continue to invest in that initiative.
“We are known for our very strong client service, our commitment to delivering first-grade client service, and understanding our client business, helping them not just on the legal side but also on the operations side,” Devaney said.
One of the firm’s oldest clients is Microsoft, which has shifted away from the billable hour in the vast majority of its outside counsel arrangements.