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Consolidation pays off for BakerHostetler with merged data group

4 minute read

BakerHostetler offices in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

  • Practice revenue up 30% over projections since restructuring, group leader says
  • 'Core' digital assets and data management group united seven teams, more than 80 full-time lawyers

(Reuters) - It's been just over a year and half since Baker & Hostetler unveiled a new digital assets and data management (DADM) group on par with litigation and its other "core" practice groups. The move brought together teams including advertising, cybersecurity, privacy litigation and the firm's IncuBaker technology unit under one umbrella.

According to DADM practice leader Ted Kobus, the restructuring has paid off in the form of increased revenue and demand across the seven teams that now comprise the group. Recruitment has benefited too, Kobus said, pointing to a string of lateral hires since last year.

"The formation of the practice group really highlighted the depth of the practice. Our demand across all practice teams was up about 30%," he said. In terms of revenue, the practice group ended last year over 30% higher than its projections and is on track to beat last year by at least 25%, Kobus said.

Demand for privacy, cybersecurity and other data-related work is being driven by regulatory changes and accelerating security threats, as well as new uses of data. While some firms have built new practice groups from scratch in recent years to meet that demand, others have sought to differentiate themselves in the market by beefing up existing teams and offerings.

At 1,000-lawyer BakerHostetler, there are more than 80 lawyers practicing in the DADM group full time, plus another 30 to 40 who collaborate with the group from other practices, Kobus said.

Reflecting on the past year, he said the firm "actually did what we set out to do," which was to coordinate and maximize the value of its teams that touch on "the lifecycle of data."

The process allowed leadership to examine the individual teams on a micro-level and chart a broader strategy for the group, Kobus said. "We immediately saw the synergies that we expected to see bringing the group together," he said.

The firm has found that now, more clients are using multiple teams within the DADM practice, bringing in more business.

"The more teams that clients touch, the more revenue typically you generate, and the stickier those clients are," Kobus said. "So from that perspective, that's been very helpful."

ATTRACTING TALENT

Kobus said IncuBaker, part of the emerging technologies team, serves a dual purpose, bringing efficiencies internally to the firm and externally to clients.

He cited the firm's engagement letter process. If a client calls on a Saturday needing help with incident response, for example, lawyers need to jump on it quickly, Kobus said. The IncuBaker team has automated part of the process - and it's been a "wild success," he said. Kobus noted other areas, such as in privacy assessment work, where the team has leveraged technology.

BakerHostetler's reshuffling initially brought together six teams: digital risk advisory and cybersecurity; advertising, marketing and digital media; privacy governance and technology transactions; healthcare privacy and compliance; privacy and digital risk class action and litigation; and emerging technology. The firm in April 2020 launched a seventh team focused on digital transformation and the data economy, bringing on Jeewon Kim Serrato, previously the head of U.S. data protection, privacy and cybersecurity at Norton Rose Fulbright, to co-lead the team.

Serrato is one of several new additions since the practice group launch. Kobus cited the firm's prioritization of the data practice as one attraction for potential lateral hires. Including Serrato, the group has hired three partners, three counsel and 18 associates since the launch. Most recently, partner Craig Carpenter joined from Thompson & Knight in May.

Competition for talent in data-related practices has been fierce, with practice leadership moves at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Goodwin Procter, Squire Patton Boggs, Dechert, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in the past year. This month competitive intelligence firm Decipher found lateral hires for associates in data privacy practices in the U.S. was up 118% in the first half of the year, compared to a four-year average.

Read More:

Privacy and data security lawyers bask in high demand as firms play tug of war

Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at sara.merken@thomsonreuters.com

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