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NEW YORK (May 11, 2009) – The Am Law 100 issue of Incisive Media’s The American Lawyer contrasts the different roads taken by two Am Law 100 newcomers to crack this year’s elite list. While high-profile Boies, Schiller leveraged alternative fee arrangements and big bets on contingency cases to boost revenue by 18 percent in 2008, Husch Blackwell Sanders, a firm built by Midwestern mergers that didn’t even exist until last year, used bargain billing rates and “value” marketing to pitch and win big business. In today’s economic environment, the Boies, Schiller strategy—mixing plaintiffs cases with defense matters, picking clients whose work fits the firm’s long-term goals and employing creative billing methods —looks built for the times. Husch, meanwhile, says that what budget-challenged general counsel need to do is “wake up, fire the $800 lawyer in Chicago, and get it all for $400.” The 2009 Am Law 100 rankings, based on FY 2008 financial performance data, are featured in the redesigned May issue of the magazine and are also available at http://www.americanlawyer.com/amlaw100 and www.law.com.
In “Don’t Bet Against the House,” writer Andrew Longstreth analyzes the factors that led newcomer Boies, Schiller to post $3 million in profits per partner, the third-highest earnings on The Am Law 100. While the firm has grown since its founding in 1997, its business model has stayed roughly the same and proven remarkably durable – representing a carefully selected, core group of clients who need high-end legal work on a regular basis. If a company is not likely to bring their biggest and most complicated pieces of litigation, the firm will often take a pass. The class action suit remains central to the firm’s model and helps distinguish it from most of The Am Law 100. The final piece of the equation is regular bets on major contingency opportunities. Associates have a voice in contingency case selection and share in firm profits. The firm says its unique model and risk management experience give it a “first-mover” advantage that will be hard for other firms to duplicate, and the numbers support that claim. Over the last five years, 48 percent of its revenue has come from pure contingency fee cases and alternative fee arrangements.
In “Priced to Sell,” writer David Bario explores whether Husch Blackwell can establish itself as a low-cost alternative for national clients without becoming defined by its rates alone. The firm is far from typical, with average billing rates – $352 for partners and $218 for associates – lower than those reported by any of its peers. But, its partners say that rates are only part of the story. With corporate law departments looking for ways to cut costs, the firm is pitching work that it insists is on par with the best its coastal peers can offer, performed for a fraction of the cost. Husch partners believe the current downturn will actually work to its advantage, and has no plans to create big-city offices in any location other than its current one in Chicago. So far, it looks like Husch’s value strategy is paying off. Partners say the firm’s financial performance so far this year is exceeding their expectations, and they predict both revenue and profits will grow in 2009.
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