A smaller Dorsey & Whitney enjoys rebound after growth in 2013

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2014 - 4:47 PM

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The financial fortunes of big, Minneapolis-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney rebounded in 2013, Dorsey managing partner Ken Cutler said last week.

“I think morale is up,” Cutler said. “It usually is when finances are up and we’re busy.”

Dorsey, one of the 100 largest U.S. law firms, saw 2012 revenue drop to its lowest level in six years, amid turnover, the loss of some high-producing attorneys to competitors and retirements.

In an interview, Cutler said Dorsey added more high-producing partners last year from other firms (22) than it lost to competitors.

But the talent competition remains intense. This month, San Francisco-based Littler Mendelson P.C., which says it has the “world’s largest employment and labor law practice representing management,” hired Douglas Christensen in its Minneapolis office. Christensen was chairman of Dorsey’s national Labor and Employment Law Practice Group.

Dorsey has lost other partners in recent years to specialty-line firms that opened Twin Cities offices. And it recently lost New York partner Zachary Carter, a former federal prosecutor and co-chairman of Dorsey’s white-collar crime practice, who started in January as top counsel to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cutler said Dorsey’s 2013 revenue rose more than 3 percent, or about $13 million, and profit per partner rose 5 percent to an unspecified six-figure amount.

Figures compiled by publication American Lawyer last year show Dorsey’s revenue declining from a high of $367 million in 2008 to $313.5 million in 2012 as profits per partner dropped from $670,000 in 2008 to $515,000 in 2012. Cutler, who disputed American Lawyer’s profits-per-partner calculation, said Dorsey’s rebound is real, thanks partly to internal restructuring and focus.

The American Lawyer, which published a piece on its website about Dorsey recently, ranks the big law firms by revenue and profitability every spring.

Marianne Short, Cutler’s predecessor as managing partner, left to work for a client in 2012. Cutler, 67, a 40-year Dorsey lawyer who was elected to a three-year term as the firm’s top manager, credited Short with an economical new strategy. Dorsey uses a “legal mine” of contract lawyers it has vetted who bill at $75 per hour for certain case-support work rather than associate employees who bill at closer to $250 an hour.

“The clients love it because they get good service [cheaper] and it has helped us in litigation and merger and acquisition cases,” Cutler said.

Dorsey, for years the state’s largest law firm, has 565 attorneys. It was eclipsed by Faegre, which merged in late 2012 with an Indiana firm to become 740-lawyer Faegre Baker Daniels.

Dorsey recently signed a new multiyear lease that cedes two of six floors in an office tower on Sixth Street and the Nicollet Mall. Cutler said there are fewer people and less room is needed for law books, conference rooms, associate attorneys in the new era of online communications and contract attorneys.

Schell’s beer wants in as part of the craft movement

Faced with a cascade of new craft beers flooding the marketplace, the August Schell Brewing Co., manufacturer of arguably the oldest craft beer in Minnesota, is stepping up its marketing efforts in an attempt to beef up its regional presence and broaden its appeal to newcomers in the craft world.

The 154-year-old Schell’s Brewery, which produces more than a dozen craft-quality beers, has retained the Minneapolis advertising and marketing agency Haberman to tell Schell’s story that “We are German craft beer.” The radio/print/digital/outdoor campaign began last week.

The ad campaign is Schell’s second in the last three years. The brewer’s previous relationship with the Minneapolis agency now known as PadillaCRT, ended early last year. Haberman was hired in the summer of 2013.

Schell President Ted Marti, the fifth generation of the New Ulm brewing family, said the new ad campaign is a shift for Schell’s from marketing both Schell’s beer and its Grain Belt line brew. “The challenge was that we were marketing two brands that compete in different markets and other craft brewers don’t have to do that.” Marti said in an interview. “We felt it was important to make a pretty significant shift to the Schell side.”

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  • The financial fortunes of big, Minneapolis-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney rebounded in 2013, Dorsey managing partner Ken Cutler said last week.“I think morale is up,” Cutler said. “It usually is when finances are up and we’re busy.”Dorsey, one of the 100 largest U.S. law firms, saw 2012 revenue drop to its lowest level in six years, amid turnover, the loss of some high-producing attorneys to competitors and retirements.In an interview, Cutler said Dorsey added more high-producing partners last year from other firms (22) than it lost to competitors.But the talent competition remains intense. This month, San Francisco-based Littler Mendelson...

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