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Home / MOney 20 2015 / MOney 20 2015: Overview

MOney 20 2015: Overview


In the 2014 MOney 20 issue, a small uptick in revenue per lawyer was just a footnote in looking at the performance of the 20 firms on the list. This year, it’s the main story.

Collectively, the firms on the list increased revenue per lawyer by 4.5 percent, compared to 3.8 percent in 2014. That comes with roughly the same increase in gross revenue, about 6 percent, and a smaller increase in profits.

A look at some changes in that time frame also shed some light on the revenue increase.

Kansas City law firm Stinson Morrison Hecker merged with Minneapolis firm Leonard, Street and Deinard at the start of 2014, boosting its revenue by more than 66 percent. National law firm Kutak Rock also joined the MOney 20 list for the first time, edging out local firm McDowell Rice Smith & Buchanan.

But revenue per lawyer is perhaps a truer measure of success at the firms on the list, and some firms saw larger bumps in revenue per lawyer, as well as an uptick in profits. Brown & James and Carmody MacDonald topped the list with RPL increases of about 14 percent. Lewis, Rice & Fingersh and Thompson Coburn saw increases of 7 percent. Spencer Fane Britt & Browne was close behind.

Patrick Whalen, chairman of Spencer Fane, said the increase from $451,000 to $480,400 is part of a “trend of upward progress” in all of the firm’s metrics. Spencer Fane also increased its revenue and profit this year.

Looking more specifically at practice groups, Whalen said much of the increase is related to the transactional side of Spencer Fane’s practice, as well as its environmental practice.

Overall, he said, the theme at the firm is bringing value to customers, which then translates to more business.

“You see an overall increase for that reason,” he said.

For the second time in two years, Thompson Coburn increased revenue by 10 percent.

Chairman Tom Minogue attributed the increased revenue to its growing Los Angles office. That office, which now has 20 attorneys, has doubled in size since since a 2013 merger with Freedman Weisz and “continues to thrive in the areas of general corporate, finance, litigation, estate planning, and labor and employment law,” he said.

“In addition to our growth on the West Coast, our revenue increase also can be attributed to an improving economy,” Minogue said in a statement. “The upswing has benefited a wide variety of practice groups throughout our firm, with the corporate world moving into a more expansionist mode.”

The 2015 list doesn’t bring happy news for all the firms on the list. Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice saw dramatic drops in its financials, including revenues at less than half the levels seen the year before. Headcount has dropped as work winds down on major litigation, and lacked the huge contingency fee boost that marked the previous year.

Bryan Cave, which has been No. 1 on the list since the publication started, still sits firmly at the top but saw a small dip in revenue this year.

Bob Newmark, Bryan Cave’s managing partner, pointed out that while that is true, “Bryan Cave continues to experience an uptick in mergers and acquisitions work.”

“We remained one of the most active firms nationally in mergers and acquisitions during 2014, with 2014 more robust for us in that regard than in the prior year,” Newmark wrote in an email.

He went on to point out growth in such areas as cybersecurity and more activity in high-stakes commercial litigation.

“So as revenues declined slightly, overall our core practices remained strong,” he wrote.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon saw an increase in its revenue for the first time since 2012, but it still isn’t up to the levels the firm saw before parting ways with Lorillard, a major client.

John Murphy, Shook’s chairman, is optimistic, however, that the firm will reach that level of revenue again, perhaps this year and if not by 2016.

Shook is focused on growth through strategically opening new offices in new locations, he said.

The firm opened an office a Seattle office in 2013 and a Denver office in 2014, which he said is a major factor in the revenue increase the firm saw this year. Shook’s location in the Midwest also gives it an edge, in terms of value, over firms on the coast.

Growth is continuing at Shook, which opened a Chicago office in February, and Murphy said the firm has gotten off to a really good start for the year with a successful first quarter.

“I’m really excited about the year,” he said. “I think things are looking good.”