Merger sparks spike in revenue at Husch Blackwell
Merger sparks spike in revenue at Husch Blackwell
Several big Missouri firms saw increases in revenue this year, but the most notable was a 23 percent jump at Husch Blackwell.
The firm’s revenue shot up from $283.9 million in 2015 to $349.9 million in 2016. CEO and Managing Partner Greg Smith said the increase is almost entirely due to a merger last July with Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, a 140-lawyer firm based in Milwaukee.
At the time of the combination, Smith said it was a good growth opportunity for the firm.
In a recent interview, Smith said the firm doesn’t have any immediate plans for additional business combinations in the near future, but is always open to the possibility.
“I am very proud of my partners in that we have been alert to and supportive of making these kinds of investments, and I am confident we would do so again when it is called for,” he said.
The revenue increase moves Husch up one spot to No. 3 on the MOney 20 list, swapping places with Shook Hardy & Bacon, which also saw a revenue increase this year. Smith said that Husch tries to “examine what clients want and need and how that might affect the marketplace over the long term” instead of looking at things on a year-to-year basis.
“The yearly firm rankings are consequential, but not as much as long-range strategic planning and investment and growing in a sustainable manner,” he said.
At Shook, Chairwoman Madeleine M. McDonough said the firm isn’t worried about moving down on the list.
“We’re competing with ourselves and not anyone else,” she said.
In that internal competition, the firm is doing well, with a 3.6 percent increase, from $322.6 million in 2015 to $334.1 million in 2016. McDonough attributed the rise largely to new business as well as adding new offices in recent years that are “really taking off,” such as ones in Philadelphia, Denver and Chicago.
Shook has been particular about making sure it hires people that complement its core business, she said, and works hard to integrate them into the firm.
“I see some firms growing for growth’s sake. We’re not doing that. We’re growing where it makes sense,” she said.
A few other firms on the list also saw revenue increases this year, including Spencer Fane with a 15.5 percent rise, Evans & Dixon, 11 percent, Polsinelli, 7 percent, Armstrong Teasdale, 4 percent, and Thompson Coburn, 3 percent.
Timothy M. Tierney, managing member at Evans & Dixon, said a variety of factors caused the firm to have a good year.
“First, we have spent several years investing in both practice group and geographic diversity and, last year, both of those investments paid off,” he said. “Specifically, our Johnson County, Kansas office and our business services groups have helped grow our revenue stream.”
He also said that the firm’s subrogation group had continued its four-year run of “extraordinary growth.”
Polsinelli Chairman Russ Welsh said the revenue growth comes from new lawyers the firm added, including 44 attorneys from intellectual property boutique Novak Druce which joined Polsinelli in March 2016.
John Beulick, managing partner of Armstrong Teasdale, said, “We saw business increase across all of our practice groups.”
Thompson Coburn Chairman Tom Minogue said his firm experienced the benefits of a strengthening economy in 2016, “particularly in the areas of health care, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, labor and employment and intellectual property.”
“We continue to use our St. Louis headquarters as the base for expanding into Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and have seen increased revenues as a result of that strategy,” he said.
Other firms, however, saw a decrease in revenues. Stinson Leonard Street had a 4 percent drop while Bryan Cave, Lewis Rice and Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale all saw around a 1 percent decline.
At Lewis Rice, Chairman Thomas Erb said it’s all about timing.
“We are already up significantly for the first few months of the current year. It’s within the normal bounds of business fluctuation,” he said.
Bryan Cave Managing Partner Bob Newmark attributed his firm’s slight decrease to a drop off in business from the financial crisis. Greensfelder declined to comment.
Mark Hinderks, managing partner at Stinson, said 2015 was the firm’s best year ever, which made the revenue reported for 2016 seem lower.
“In part, it’s simply a contrast between a high point and a point that wasn’t quite so high,” he said.
He said 2015 was the year after the firm had completed a big merger, and “pretty much every practice was going strong.” Hinderks said 2016 just had a slightly lower demand, especially in the first four months of the year.
Hinderks noted that the firm still had its second best revenue per lawyer in 2016. He also said demand picked up toward the end of the year.
As for 2017, he said “so far so good.”
“We’re pretty cautiously optimistic about the year overall,” he said.
Other firms, like Shook, also said revenues had been good so far for 2017. Newmark said he noticed a slight slowdown of legal work, specifically on the transactional side, which he said seems to be connected with uncertainty related to the transition in the federal and state government.
“Particularly in connection with the federal government,” he said. “There is a lot of uncertainty around where regulations may be headed.”