Akin Gump sets sights on London growth as revenue and PEP rise on back of strong 2017

Kim Koopersmith Akin Gump’s Kim Koopersmith.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has posted a double-digit increase in profits per partner (PEP) for 2017, with the metric rising 13.5% to $2.4m after another strong year for lobbying and dealmaking.

“In every way that you are measuring success in a law firm, we had a very strong year,” said Kim Koopersmith, the firm’s chair since 2013.

Gross revenues rose 6.1% last year to $1.039bn, and revenue per lawyer was up 6% to $1.14m. The 858-lawyer firm boasted 195 equity partners in 2017, one short of the previous year.

The firm was the 29th largest US law firm by revenue in The American Lawyer‘s 2016 and 2017 Am Law 100 rankings. (This year’s ranking will be released in May).

Akin Gump also continued to gain ground internationally, thanks in part to its late 2014 absorption of a high-profile restructuring team based in London and Frankfurt from the now defunct Bingham McCutchen, Koopersmith said.

“The Bingham acquisition has been extremely successful,” she said. It was “one of the smartest things” that the firm has done under her leadership, she added.

“We have our eyes open to see if there are ways for us to grow in London,” Koopersmith said.

Akin GumpAkin Gump has continued to dominate the Washington DC lobbying world. Open Secrets’ rankings show it as the highest earner again last year, with $38.7m in lobbying income in 2017. Lawmakers focused this year on healthcare and tax reform, issues for which the firm has a strong bench, and that helped fuel the lobbying income gains, Koopersmith said.

But Koopersmith stressed that Akin Gump’s overall financial performance hinges on far more than its legislative-oriented practices.

“We are [a] very well-rounded firm,” she said. “Our corporate practice was on fire all year long.”

The firm’s M&A lawyers advised VCA on its $9.1bn sale to Mars, 7-Eleven on its purchase of 1,030 Sunoco stores, Sanchez on its $2.3bn joint-venture acquisition with Anadarko of assets in the South Texas Eagle Ford shale play, and LUKOIL on its $1.45bn sale of a mining subsidiary.

Litigation victories last year included beating back class certification in a consumer class action against VIZIO and several wins in contested bankruptcy proceedings, such as for Hercules Offshore and Icelandic banks’ bondholders. The firm prevailed in a multi-pronged, multi-year defence of former AIG CEO Martin Sullivan, who, after the 2008 recession, had come under the scrutiny of Congress, the US Securities and Exchange Commission and civil plaintiffs.

In 2017, according to ALM Intelligence’s Legal Compass database, the firm added 10 lateral partners, including Obama administration officials Howard Sklamberg, the former deputy commissioner for global regulatory operations and policy at the US Food and Drug Administration, and Kevin Wolf, former assistant secretary of commerce for export administration, as well as Courtney York, an M&A lawyer who came from Akin Gump’s Texas rival, Baker Botts.

For now, the firm remains smaller than it was when the financial crisis struck a decade ago. In 2008, the firm had 983 lawyers – 125 more than it does now.

“What I have tried to focus on is wise, strategic growth,” Koopersmith said. “The growth will come from us identifying client needs, not just because we have a desire to be big,” she said, adding: “I like what our firm looks like now.”