January-June Firm Revenue Outpaces 2013: Business of Law

Law firms continued to show signs of health in the first half of the year, according to a survey of 174 firms by Citi Private Bank.

The study found that in the first half of 2014, gains in revenue resulting from higher rates and an increased demand for legal services exceeded growth in expenses.

The top 50 firms by revenue, as ranked by the trade magazine American Lawyer, saw the best results, largely because of the rise in transactions as well as an acceleration of global work, John Wilmouth, a senior client adviser with Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group, said in a phone interview yesterday.

Wilmouth explained that the top 50 firms “at times in the last few years were performing the worst, but in the cycle we’re in, these firms are benefiting the most.”

When compared with the first half of 2013, the top 50 firms saw revenues increase 5.9 percent, with expenses up 2.1 percent; firms in the top 100 had a 2.1 percent increase in revenue, with a 1.8 percent rise in expenses; and revenue at firms in the top 200 climbed 2.7 percent, while expenses grew 2.4 percent. In contrast, smaller firms saw revenue drop 0.5 percent as expenses rose 1.6 percent.

Southern California firms experienced the biggest rise in revenue -- 9.1 percent -- primarily because of rate increases, Wilmouth said. Revenue at Chicago-based firms increased 6.4 percent over last year, while demand rose 3.4 percent, the largest of any region. Firms based in New York had a 2.8 percent increase in revenue and a 4.4 percent increase in rates over the first six months of 2013.

Rate increases may seem counterintuitive with so many clients seeking discounts. Wilmouth said the increases resulted in part from some redistribution of workload. If partners and senior associates are billing more, he said, the composite rates billed will be higher.

Deals

Alston & Bird, Weil Gotshal Work on FleetCor’s Comdata Takeover

Alston & Bird LLP represented FleetCor Technologies Inc., a provider of fuel cards, in its $3.45 billion acquisition of Comdata Inc. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP advised Comdata, Thomas H. Lee Partners, and Fidelity National Financial Inc. Comdata is owned by Ceridian LLC, a portfolio company of funds affiliated with Thomas H. Lee and Fidelity.

The Alston & Bird lawyers advising FleetCor were partner and deal team leader Chris Baugher, corporate); along with partners Justin Howard, corporate; Sam Kaywood and Blake MacKay, tax; and Valarie Williams, litigation.

From Weil representing Comdata, Thomas H. Lee and Fidelity are partners Michael Aiello, corporate; Kenneth Heitner and Chayim Neubort, tax; Paul Wessel, benefits; Todd Chandler and Alexander Lynch, capital markets; Allison Liff, banking and finance; John Dedyo, structured finance; Michael Epstein, technology and IP transactions; Steven Newborn and Laura Wilkinson, antitrust; and Randi Singer, litigation.

FleetCor plans to finance the purchase with about $2.4 billion of new debt and issue about 7.3 million of its shares to Ceridian LLC, which owns Comdata, the Norcross, Georgia-based buyer said Aug. 12 in a statement.

The deal allows FleetCor -- a provider of specialized payment products and services to commercial auto fleets, oil companies and petroleum marketers -- to expand in North America and enter the business of virtual bank-card payments. The acquisition will increase FleetCor’s scale, earnings and diversify its mix of businesses, according to the statement.

On the Move

Locke Lord, Perkins Coie, Jackson Lewis Add Lateral Partners

Energy transactional attorney Scott Arrington will join Locke Lord LLP as a partner in its corporate and transactional department and the energy practice group in Houston Aug. 25. Arrington, previously a partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, represents clients on infrastructure development, acquisitions, dispositions, financings and transactions, with a focus on international projects in the oil and gas, petrochemical, power and mining industries.

Ann Schofield Baker joined the New York office of Perkins Coie LLP as a partner in the firm’s commercial litigation practice focusing on intellectual property and other complex commercial matters. She was most recently the head of McKool Smith’s national trademark and copyright litigation practice. In addition to her specialty in intellectual property litigation, Baker has a wide-ranging practice that includes the prosecution and defense of an extensive variety of complex commercial disputes.

Jackson Lewis PC added Carla Gunnin as a shareholder in the firm’s Atlanta office. Gunnin, who joins the firm from Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, regularly litigates cases involving occupational safety and health law and mine safety and health law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Rosen in New York at erosen14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net David E. Rovella, Charles Carter

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