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Akin Gump falls short of last year’s City revenue surge amid global growth and lateral push

The London office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld may have failed to maintain 2018’s pacy revenue growth of 28% on the back of a restructuring bonanza, but globally the firm has reported steady global growth amid a sustained lateral push.

City turnover was broadly flat in 2019, rising only 1% to $125.1m from $123.5m after an exceptional 2018 that saw revenue surge dramatically from $96.2m. The global picture was stronger, with gross revenue increasing 6% from $1.07bn to $1.135bn and profit per equity partner (PEP) rising 8% to $2.6m from $2.4m the previous year.

Despite its more muted financial performance, London remains a top priority for global chair Kim Koopersmith (pictured), who has thrown her support behind the office since taking up the role in 2013, followed by the 2014 acquisition of 28 partners fronted by restructuring veteran James Roome from the ill-fated Bingham McCutchen. London is now the third largest office after New York and Washington DC, with all three offices seeing sustained partner growth throughout the financial year.

Sebastian Rice, partner in charge of the London office, told Legal Business: ‘We are very pleased with our 2019. Revenue has improved, revenue per lawyer is up and PEP has increased. Last year was focused on restructuring but this year the work has been a more balanced spread more evenly across restructuring, litigation, energy and emerging markets.’

Rice also pointed to the host of new partners in London as a particular highlight. ‘What we loved in 2019 was that there was growth across the whole office rather than in just one group,’ he said.

The firm particularly benefited from unrest at O’Melveny & Myers’ London branch as its fruitless merger talks with Allen & Overy dragged on. Private equity funds partners to jump ship to Akin Gump included John Daghlian and Mary Lavelle in June, following in the footsteps of Daniel Quinn and Aleksander Bakic in April. Gavin Weir’s hire in July from White & Case was a shot in the arm for its M&A practice, which has not been a historic focus. September saw even more lateral activity, with private equity partners Shaun Lascelles and Simon Rootsey joining from Vinson & Elkins, a move shortly followed by the addition of Weyinmi Popo on the same practice from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffle.

The hires have already started to pay dividends, with Lascelles and Rootsey acting for new client Helios Investment Partners, the largest Africa-focused private investment firm, as a major selling shareholders in Helios Towers’ $1.45bn initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange. ‘Success with a number of private equity clients has been a big part of what we have been trying to build out in the corporate team,’ says Rice.

The firm expects opportunities to recruit in the coming year in key areas but doesn’t anticipate the pace of growth to be at quite the same level as last year. Rice is sanguine: ‘We have been busy so far this year, with funds clients, private equity clients and restructuring mandates. Whatever happens, we have a strong offering in an up market and a down market. We are well positioned and well hedged. We have the building blocks for great things in 2020.’