Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P.
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P.
Sales: $301 million (1998)
NAIC: 54111 Offices of Lawyers
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P., is one of the world’s largest law firms, with more than 870 lawyers based in Washington, D.C., Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angles, London, Brussels, and Moscow and an affiliate in Saudi Arabia. While the firm has a diversified practice in most aspects of modern corporate law, it is best known as one of the nation’s top lobbying law firms. Its many prominent attorneys include founder Robert Strauss, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union; Vernon Jordan, a key member of the Clinton administration; former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Thomas S. Foley; and Bill Paxon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Origins and Early Years
Robert S. Strauss, one of the two founders of the firm, grew up in the small town of Stamford, Texas, and in 1941 graduated from the law school at the University of Texas in Austin. In college he met John Connally, whom he later helped become the governor of Texas. After law school, he joined the FBI as a special agent. In 1945 he and Richard Gump, a college friend who was also at the FBI, resigned to start a Dallas partnership known as Gump and Strauss. The firm’s first big client was the Dallas Transit Company, a private firm being sold to the city government. That representation earned Gump and Strauss $450,000, and the firm was on its way.
In those early years, Gump and Strauss were heavily involved in politics and met many potential clients through their political activities. In the 1950s Strauss ran unsuccessfully for the Dallas City Council and secured an appointment as the chairman of the Texas State Banking Commission. Strauss raised money to help elect John F. Kennedy in 1960 and made the acquaintance of Lyndon Johnson before he became president in 1963.
The 1970s and 1980s
In 1971 the Washington, D.C., office of Akin Gump was established with two attorneys. By the late 1990s the former branch office included over 300 lawyers and served as the main office of the firm. Akin Gump opened a branch office in Austin in 1978 to serve clients in the oil industry.
In 1982 the law firm hired Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Jordan was born and raised in Atlanta, graduated from Howard University Law School, worked as a civil rights lawyer, and served as the president of the National Urban League. Jordan had become acquainted with Robert Strauss when the two served as directors of the Xerox Corporation.
Like many other large law firms, Akin Gump expanded in the 1980s along with a booming American economy that added millions of new jobs. In 1984 the law firm opened an office in San Antonio, followed in 1988 by an office in Houston which grew to employ more than 75 lawyers by the late 1990s. In 1989 Akin Gump added an office in Brussels.
Practice in the 1990s
In 1991 President George Bush appointed Robert Strauss ambassador to the Soviet Union, which broke apart soon afterward. Although Strauss was no longer part of the firm, which changed its name to Akin, Gump, Hauer & Feld, the firm did benefit from his government service, as clients requested the firm’s counsel in establishing business ventures in the region. In 1994 Akin, Gump joined the growing list of American law firms with branch offices in Moscow.
In 1992 Strauss rejoined the law firm, which again changed its name. At about the same time, several other attorneys joined or rejoined the firm after serving in government positions, including L. Kirk O’Donnell, general counsel to speaker of the House of Representatives from 1978 to 1986, and Stephen A. Wakefield, the Energy Department’s general counsel from 1989 to 1991. Some have criticized this “revolving door” that enabled individuals to take advantage of their government service by returning to work in the private sector. When Vernon Jordan became the chairman of newly elected President Bill Clinton’s transition team in 1992, he gained even more prominence as a key member of the new Democratic administration. Jordan was also a member of the board of directors of several corporations, including RJR/Nabisco.
In 1992 Akin Gump’s clients included the People’s Republic of China, the Korean Foreign Trade Association, the Chilean Exporter’s Association, three Japanese companies, and the government of Colombia. The following year the firm opened a branch office in New York City with five attorneys. By the end of the decade more than 100 lawyers worked there, with many focusing on issues of international finance in cooperation with the firm’s overseas branches. Akin Gump founded an office in Philadelphia in 1996 and offices in Los Angeles and London the following year.
In 1998 the U.S. military blew up the Al Shifa plant in Khartoum, Sudan, an action that was justified by the claim that the plant made chemical weapons for terrorist Osama bin Laden. However, the plant’s owner maintained that the plant manufactured only Pharmaceuticals, so it hired Akin Gump to sue the United States for $20 million to rebuild the plant. In June 1999 Akin Gump formed an affiliated practice with Abdulaziz Fahad of Saudi Arabia to better serve Akin Gump clients in the Middle East, including Salah Idris, the owner of the Sudan plant.
Akin Gump ranked number four among law firms serving as lobbyists, brining in $6.7 million and $9.7 million in lobbying fees in 1996 and 1997 from such clients as Mobil, Citizens Educational Foundation Inc., and Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Law firms donated to political parties to increase their influence in Washington and state capitals, and in 1998 the Center for Responsive Politics reported that Akin Gump had donated $674,000 by October 1st, with 53 percent of that amount to the Democratic Party and 47 percent to the Republican Party.
In the late 1990s Akin Gump served numerous companies and institutions, including the University of Texas, Samsung, 3M, American Physicians Service Group Inc., AT&T, Tivoli, Prime Medical Services Inc., Natural Gas Clearinghouse, and DeepTech International Inc. Akin Gump also represented Lukoil, Russia’s largest oil company, when it signed an agreement to work with Houston-based Conoco to jointly develop oil fields in a 1.2 million acre area known as Russia’s Northern Territories.
Some Akin Gump lawyers served as corporate directors, a practice that has raised questions about possible conflicts of interest. Vernon Jordan in the 1990s was a director of Ryder System, Union Carbide, Xerox, Sara Lee Corporation, J.C. Penney, and RJR/Nabisco, while Robert Strauss was a director of Archer-Daniels-Midland Company.
We aspire, through dedicated effort, to become, and to be recognized as, a leading international law firm that excels at providing innovative legal services worldwide and thereby to be one of the major international law firms that will dominate the legal market for the twenty-first century. To fulfill our vision, we will position ourselves as a challenger to the firms that have dominated the market for services to corporate and financial America in the last half of the twentieth century by distinguishing ourselves through our ability to bring a new approach to the practice of the law that reflects our energy, creativity, skills-developed to serve the demands of the new economy-use of technology, and ability to affect the relationship of business and government worldwide.
- Richard Gump and Robert Strauss leave the FBI to found the Gump and Strauss law firm in Dallas.
- The firm is renamed Goldberg, Fonville, Gump & Strauss.
- The Pipe Line Contractors Association becomes the firm’s largest client.
- The firm becomes known as Goldberg, Fonville, Gump, Strauss & Hauer.
- Goldberg leaves to become a judge, and Henry Akin joins the firm.
- The firm opens its Washington, D.C., branch office.
- Founding partner Robert Strauss becomes Democratic National Committee chairman.
- An office is opened in Austin, Texas.
- Vernon Jordan joins the law firm.
- The firm establishes its San Antonio office.
- An office is opened in Houston.
- A branch office in Brussels is opened; firm includes 400 attorneys.
- The firm is renamed Akin, Gump, Hauer & Feld after Strauss becomes ambassador to the USSR.
- The firm becomes Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld after Strauss returns; Vernon Jordan is named chairman of President Clinton’s transition team.
- The firm’s New York City office is opened.
- An office is established in Moscow.
- An office is opened in Philadelphia.
- Offices in London and Los Angeles are opened.
- The firm acquires two intellectual property firms: Pravel Hewitt in Houston and Panitch Schwarze Jacobs & Nadel in Philadelphia; it also begins an affiliated practice in Saudi Arabia.
In 1999 Akin Gump merged with two smaller law firms, Pravel Hewitt of Houston and Panitch Schwarze Jacobs & Nadel of Philadelphia. The latter arrangement gave the combined organization a total of more than 80 intellectual property lawyers, which was a large concentration for a general law firm. According to the magazine IP Today, Akin Gump and the Panitch law firm were two of the nation’s largest filers of U.S. trademarks.
In July 1999 The American Lawyer ranked Akin Gump as number 20 in its annual listing of the nation’s largest law firms based on annual revenue. Akin Gump reported $301 million in 1998 annual revenue, and was also listed as number 73 for revenue per lawyer ($405,000), number 56 for average compensation for all partners ($470,000), and number 63 for its pro bono work.
The International Financial Law Review in 1999 listed Akin Gump as the nineteenth-largest international law firm. However, it faced plenty of competition as many law firms expanded overseas. Consolidation and mergers were producing larger and larger law firms, while international accounting firms employed thousands of lawyers, posing another significant source of competition for the big law firms as they entered the new century.
Arnold & Porter; Covington & Burling; Hogan & Hartson.
“Akin Gump Becomes Number One in Trade Markets,” Managing Intellectual Property, July/August 1999, p. 10.
Borrus, Amy, and Owen Ullmann, “Mugging on K Street: The GOP Assault on Business Lobbyists,” Business Week, November 9, 1998, p. 59.
Brenner, Marie, “Mr. Ambassador! Bob Strauss Comes Home,” New Yorker, December 28, 1992-January 4, 1993, pp. 146-156.
“Hired Guns Are Going Full Blast,” Legal Times, May 25, 1998, pp. S30-S33.
Ivanovich, David, “Conoco, Russia’s Lukoil Teaming Up,” Houston Chronicle, March 12, 1998, pp. 1C, 3C.
Murray, Alan, “Private to Public: Robert Strauss Has Seen It All,” Wall Street Journal, October 2, 1998, pp. A1, A6.
Piatt, Pearl J., “Akin Gump Taps Dealmakers to Lead L.A. Office,” Los Angeles Daily Journal, August 1, 1997.
Rust, Michael and David Wagner, “Mount Vernon,” Insight on the News, February 16, 1998, p. 40.
Standeford, Dugie, “The 3rd Wave: Case Management on the Computer,” Washington Lawyer, January/February 1998, pp. 40-43.
Stone, Peter H., “Banking on Paxon’s GOP Credentials,” National Journal, October 2, 1999, pp. 2820-2821.
——, “The Firm,” National Journal, November 27, 1993, pp. 2820-2826.
Taylor, Steven T., “Paralegal Hiring up to Satisfy Clients’ Cost-Cutting Demands,” Of Counsel, August 16, 1999, pp. 1, 6-9.
—David M. Walden