Dorsey & Whitney’s 2013 Growth Plans

Minneapolis-based international law firm Dorsey & Whitney is feeling good about 2013 – which is a nice change compared to many of their fellow travellers in the legal world.

The surprise departure of former Managing Partner Marianne Short took the firm and many others by surprise.  However the firm, with 19 international offices ranging from North America to Asia, is expanding its client base and looking forward to a year that may not be without its challenges, but is also going to be a turnaround one according to new Managing Partner Ken Cutler, who spoke with the Star-Tribune.


Dorsey feels like a firm in transition. Gone is the managing partner of the last six years, Marianne Short, who surprised many in the firm late last year when she left Dorsey to become chief legal counsel for longtime Dorsey client UnitedHealth Group Inc.

Dorsey no longer is the largest Minneapolis-based law firm in Minnesota. Thanks to a blockbuster merger last year, that distinction goes to Faegre Baker Daniels.

And Dorsey, which has national and international offices, now ranks No. 3 in terms of lawyers working out of its Minneapolis office, behind FaegreBD (as the firm markets itself) and Fredrikson & Byron.

“2012 was a disappointing year,” said Ken Cutler, Dorsey’s managing partner of two months. “But the last six years are the best six we’ve ever had.”

Figures compiled by the trade publication American Lawyer show Dorsey’s revenue declining from a high of $367 million in 2008 to $313.5 million in 2012. Profits per partner dropped from $670,000 in 2008 to $515,000 last year.

At FaegreBD with 740 attorneys, revenue last year was $443 million, up 3 percent from 2011. Profits per partner were $700,000, also an increase from pre-merger levels.

But Cutler is unfazed. He disputes the validity of American Lawyer’s profits-per-partner metric because of an imprecise definition of partner. Cutler would rather measure the firm’s success by the amount of revenue generated per attorney, which for Dorsey was down less than 1 percent in 2012 after increasing by 11 percent the year before.

“I think Dorsey’s numbers are still respectful,” said legal consultant Roy S. Ginsburg. “$515,000 is still a lot of money.”

Finances aside, though, Cutler said he senses an air of optimism and enthusiasm at the firm.

“We’re expanding marketing, we have more focused practice groups. We even have a partner looking for lateral hires [from other firms],” Cutler, 65, said in an interview from Dorsey’s downtown Minneapolis headquarters. “We think this will bear fruit in 2013 and even more so in 2014.”

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