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Revenue, profits up at Lewis Rice

Two years after longtime chairman's death, firm regains ground

Melissa Meinzer//May 19, 2014//

Revenue, profits up at Lewis Rice

Two years after longtime chairman's death, firm regains ground

Melissa Meinzer//May 19, 2014//

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After a dip last year, MOney 20 firm Lewis Rice & Fingersh has regained most of the ground it lost. In 2012, the firm lost a titan with the passing of the firm’s chairman of 22 years, John K. “Jack” Pruellage. The firm dipped a bit financially after his death, but profits are back up this year, and the St. Louis  office is growing, taking over another floor in its building and last year recruiting three associates and five partners from The Stolar Partnership, which later closed.

The overall number on profits per equity partner also increased last year, from $510,100 in 2012 to $555,000 in 2013. However, the firm breaks out profits per partner differently for its decentralized St. Louis and Kansas City offices. As a result, Lewis Rice partners in St. Louis make more than twice what their Kansas City counterparts do. The profits per equity partner of the St. Louis office were $615,000, and the profits per equity partner of the Kansas City office were $300,000.

“We’re separate regional profit pools with separate profits per partner and accounting systems,” firm Chairman Thomas C. Erb said in an interview.

The so-called Swiss verein model is a close approximation of how the two centers operate. In that business structure, firms are associated but not linked closely. It’s an emerging trend for law firms, Erb said. Dentons, Norton Rose Fulbright and Baker & McKenzie use the arrangement, which became prominent in the mid-2000s.

Lewis Rice has been using it for 20 years, since entering the Kansas City market, Erb said.

The offices have separate accounting systems and compensation models, Erb said. The groups share branding, marketing and information technology. The method allows the firms to serve their markets with local expertise. While attorneys are firmly at their home office, they can refer to another office if a client has needs in both locales.

Both the corporate and litigation practices have been busy as the market emerges from recession, Erb said. At the St. Louis office, which already occupies the 20th through 25th floors of One City Center downtown, the firm is planning to build out the 19th floor, adding 20,000 square feet.

Erb said the firm has maintained its business relationship with Saint Louis University. The school is a significant institutional client that had close ties to Pruellage, who served as a trustee before his death, according to SLU financial records.

“It’s been business as usual since Jack passed,” Erb said. “We miss Jack, but he handed over the firm in great shape.”


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