Revenue Dips, PPP Rises as Blank Rome Cuts Partner Ranks

, The Legal Intelligencer

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Blank Rome

Not all of the drop in equity partners is attributed to what Hoffman calls "reclassifications." He said some partners died, others made lateral moves and some retired or chose to take a different status in the firm.

"The vast majority did not leave," Hoffman said of the equity partners who are no longer equity partners.

Blank Rome also made a big move toward tailoring its staff ranks in 2013, offering buyouts to all of its secretaries in an effort to achieve a 4-1 attorney-to-secretary ratio. The firm also created an associate resource center that utilizes pools of secretaries for associates to contact when they need something rather than certain secretaries being assigned to certain associates.

The use of a secretarial pool is going to increase in 2014, Hoffman said, to now include partners. The ARC, as it is known in the firm, previously was only used by associates but now partners will also be covered by secretaries in the ARC, Hoffman said. He said there is no additional layoff program or buyout package being offered—those cuts are done. He said the firm will further reduce secretarial ranks through attrition.

In terms of practice areas that had a strong year in 2013, Hoffman highlighted the firm's real estate and financial services practice as well as the corporate and maritime groups. Hoffman also noted Blank Rome's litigation arm was strong, including the consumer financial services practice, which grew 25 to 30 percent between 2012 and 2013, he said. Blank Rome has also been growing its energy practice locally and in Houston, Hoffman said.

Blank Rome grew its Houston location in 2013 with the August acquisition of the eight-lawyer maritime boutique Bell, Ryniker & Letourneau. Hoffman said that acquisition ended up being a "break-even" in 2013 in terms of its impact on the year's finances. Around the same time, the firm shuttered its Hong Kong office, deciding to channel its work in Asia through its Shanghai location. Hoffman said the firm would be expanding the Shanghai office soon.

"A lot of what we did in '13 was premised on where we want to go in '14," Hoffman said.

Blank Rome has already made a number of headlines in 2014. The firm hired 21 lawyers from two California-based firms, expanding headcount in Los Angeles and New York and adding a small office in San Francisco. The firm then lost a five-partner public finance team led by Joan Stern when the quintet left for the Philadelphia office of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott. Blank Rome also hired a new chief business development and marketing officer while its chief strategy officer left the firm.

The firm has brought on another two partners since announcing the California expansion. Leslie D. Corwin of Greenberg Traurig in New York, who has represented Wolf Block in several of its matters post-dissolution, has joined Blank Rome. The firm also hired Matthew J. Thomas from Reed Smith in Washington, D.C., as a partner in the firm's maritime, international trade and public contracts group.

Blank Rome adopted a new strategic plan in 2013 that began at the start of 2014. It involves an expansion of the firm's industry focus to include areas such as financial institutions, maritime and energy. Blank Rome already had other industry groups that included chemical, life sciences and consumer finance.

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