The Am Law 100, the Early Numbers: For Dorsey, a Rebound in Revenue, Profits

, The Am Law Daily

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AmLaw 100

Bouncing back from several challeging years, Dorsey & Whitney registered across-the-board increases in gross revenue, revenue per lawyer and profits per partner in 2013, according to The American Lawyer's reporting.

Last year's 5.8 percent uptick in profits per equity partner, which rose to $545,000, represented the first bump Minneapolis-based Dorsey has enjoyed in that category in five years. The firm's gross revenue climbed 4 percent, to $326 million, and its revenue per lawyer was up 7.4 percent, to $650,000. The positive results come a year after Dorsey saw its revenue per lawyer essentially flatten and its profits per partner and gross revenue both dip.

Dorsey managing partner Kenneth Cutler attributed the firm’s improved financial performance to both internal factors and overall marketplace developments. “Last year was a strong year for deal activity,” Cutler says. “There were clients for which we were working on multiple deals throughout the year.”

Among those deals, according to Cutler, were several for key client Medtronic, Inc., including its acquisitions of drug and medical device company TYRX, Inc. for $160 million (plus potential milestone payments) and Cardiocom, a provider of patient services, for $200 million.

Dorsey also advised The Mosaic Co. in both its $1.2 billion acquisition of CF Industries, Inc., and a $2 billion bond offering. The firm also kept busy last year representing the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority in connection with a due diligence investigation involving Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf's family finances and in litigation regarding the bonds used to help pay for construction of the Vikings' new $1 billion stadium.

A strong overall performance by Dorsey's litigation practices also helped fuel last year's financial rebound, Cutler says. Major litigation matters on which the firm's lawyers took a lead role included overturning a $215 million award levied against the Republic of Honduras in U.S. federal court and winning a five-year long trademark infringement case for Water Pik Inc. related to its SinuSense-brand.

Cutler notes that the firm’s document review service, LegalMine, which launched under his predecessor, Marianne Short, continues to play a key role in helping Dorsey win new litigation assignments. Last year, he adds, it also emerged as a factor in landing transactional matters. Another firm subsidiary, a South Dakota–based asset management entity, also performed well in 2013.

As The Am Law Daily has previously reported, Dorsey has lost a fair number of lawyers in recent years, and that decline has benefited the firm in some financial categories. While the firm's overall head count was down 3.1 percent, to 501 attorneys, and its total partnership ranks dropped 3 percent, to 255, the number of equity partners declined by 18, or 8.3 percent, to 200.  (The year began with Dorsey losing a trio of practice group leaders: white-collar crime and civil fraud cochair Zachary Carter; private equity cochair Christopher Bellini; and IP litigation cochair Paul Ackerman.

There was one area in which the firm added lawyers last year: the nonequity partnership ranks, which grew by 10, or 22.2 percent, to 55. Cutler says the increase was not the result of any structural changes to the firm's partnership, but rather the product of internal promotions and lateral additions.

That's not to say there haven't been some internal changes at the month. In recent months Dorsey—which launched a firmwide restructuring shortly after Cutler took over as managing partner in late 2012—embarked on an effort to shift away from its historically location-based organizational structure in favor of one that is more practice group–focused. Says Cutler: “Being better organized on a practice basis has been better for business development.”

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