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February 18, 2010 4:10 PM

THE AM LAW 100: Paul Hastings Revenue Falls 10 Percent, RPL Rises

Posted by Alison Frankel

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker managed to eke out a tiny increase in gross revenue in the first year of the recession, growing by 1 percent between 2007 and 2008 to bring in revenue of $986 million--just shy of the elite $1 billion mark. But the firm couldn't sustain the trend last year. Revenue fell to $889 million in 2009, a decline of 9.8 percent.

Nevertheless, profits per partner fell much less sharply, dropping just 1.4 percent from $1.9 million in 2008 to $1.87 million. And because Paul Hastings cut head count by 13.7 percent, revenue per lawyer actually increased by 4.4 percent, from $930,000 in 2008 to $969,500 last year.

"On the profit side, we're pretty satisfied with our results," says the firm's chairman Seth Zachary. "Over the two-year period of the economic crisis we've been steady, and we feel poised for an upward trajectory."

The firm's real estate practice, which typically accounts for 15 percent of revenue, has been hard-hit by the economic downturn. The practice, which handles work in New York, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities in which Paul Hastings has offices, was down by about 30 percent in 2009, with New York suffering the biggest decline.

Paul Hastings's marque litigation practice, on the other hand, more than held its own. Litigation revenue actually increased as a percentage of the gross, up 2 percent to 43 percent of the firm's total revenue. (The firm also won The American Lawyer's 2010 Litigation Department of the Year award for its labor and employment practice.) The restructuring practice also accounted for a larger share of revenue (13 percent) than in 2008 (10 percent).

The firm shed more than 100 lawyers in 2009, with head count dropping from 1,062 to 917. (Equity partner ranks fell by almost 5 percent, from 203 to 193.) Part of the decline was the departure of an immigration group of about 50 lawyers, who, by mutual agreement with the firm, joined an immigration boutique. Paul Hastings also laid off about 50 lawyers, and has significantly decreased hiring over the last three years, beginning even before the recession.

Firm chairman Zachary says that the careful attention to head count and practice areas bodes well for the future. "The last quarter of 2009 was very strong, and we're approaching next year with optimism," he says. "When we look at our position two years after the economic crisis, we see substantial progress in our position compared to our competitors."

This report is part of The Am Law Daily's ongoing Web coverage of The Am Law 100’s 2009 financials. Results are preliminary. Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer's May 2010 issue and on AmericanLawyer.com. The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.

The final published results of last year's Am Law 100 rankings are available here.

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