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February 8, 2011 3:07 PM

The Am Law 100: DLA U.S. Profits Rise 12 Percent

Posted by Chris Johnson

DLA Piper's U.S. arm has reported an increase in revenue for 2010, eking out a 1 percent rise in top-line earnings to $1.03 billion, according to the figures provided by the firm.

The firm also pushed profitability to record levels, with U.S. profits per partner (PPP) jumping more than 12 percent to $1.38 million--its highest returns since the three-way merger between U.K. firm DLA, Chicago's Piper Rudnick, and San Diego-based Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich in 2005.

In a clean sweep of rising financials, DLA's U.S. revenue per lawyer (RPL) was up 8 percent to $879,000, while its profit margin climbed 3 percent to a three-year high of 29 percent.

DLA chairman Frank Burch said via e-mail that the firm is "very satisfied" with the 2010 results.

The results indicate a reversal in fortunes for DLA, after seeing revenue plunge 14 percent in 2009. However, having let go of more than 100 associates in 2009, DLA confirmed in November that it had made further layoffs. The firm would not comment on how many staffers were affected by the most recent cuts, but Am Law 200 figures show that its U.S. head count dropped 7 percent to 1,167 lawyers in 2010. The U.S. practice has now contracted by more than 210 lawyers in the past two years.

DLA Piper is structured as a Swiss verein and as such retains separate finances between its U.S. and international arms. In previous years, The Am Law 100 purely reflected the results of the U.S. operation. For this year's survey, DLA's full global figures will be included. (This will be followed in 2012 by the recent wave of trans-Atlantic mergers—Hogan Lovells, SNR Denton, and Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, which merged with U.K. firm Hammonds on January 1, 2011, but has retained its name--which are also structured as vereins.)

DLA saw global revenues hit $1.96 billion in the last fiscal year, with total lawyer head count finishing just south of 3,350 lawyers. The global figures also reveal that DLA's U.K. arm is significantly less profitable than the U.S., with a profit margin of 19 percent and PPP of $872,000. The British unit's RPL is less than half that of its American peer, at $429,000.

Late last month, the U.K. partnership announced that it will fully merge with its Australian ally, DLA Phillips Fox, effective May 1. Designed to increase the firm's presence in the Asia-Pacific region, the addition of 700 antipodean lawyers will mean that DLA will comprise more than 4,000 lawyers globally, making it the world's largest firm by head count. It also will boost the firm's global turnover by around $300 million, according to Burch.

 

This report is part of The Am Law Daily's ongoing Web coverage of 2010 financial results of The Am Law 100/200. Results are preliminary. Final rankings and full results for The Am Law 100 will be published in The American Lawyer's May 2011 issue and on AmericanLawyer.com. The Am Law Second Hundred will be published in the June issue.

Results for the 2010 fiscal year reflect a change in the survey methodology. Per-lawyer and per-partner results for 2010 are based on a full calendar year average FTE head count, while published results for previous years were, in most cases, based on an August 31 FTE head count. When possible, we have recalculated fiscal year 2009 numbers to reflect the change in head count and based percentages on those adjusted numbers.

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

 

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