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For a few small lobbying firms, revenue doubled or tripled in the most recent calendar year, a Bloomberg Government analysis shows.
Among them: Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP, which reported $480,000 in lobbying revenue in 2021 and $2.06 million in lobbying revenue in 2022 — a 331 percent increase — and Ice Miller LLP, which reported revenue of $550,000 in 2021 and $1.49 million in 2022 — an increase of 172 percent.
For Ice Miller, which represents the cities of Jackson, Miss., Birmingham, Ala., and Little Rock, Ark., along with Intuit Credit Karma, the numbers went up because of big turnover on a little team.
Three lobbyists left in 2021 to open a public affairs team at Taft Stettinius & Hollister, said Lawren Mills, practice group leader who oversees lobbying teams at Ice Miller, which also has teams in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
Some of the exits were related to the employees nearing Ice Miller’s mandatory retirement age, she said. Though only three people, they were “the whole public affairs DC team,” she said in an email.
Coming out of that transition year, the firm has expanded to eight lobbyists, Mills said.
“Things seem to be going well,” said Jarrod Loadholt, co-vice chair in the public affairs group. “The work is there, the clients are there, the team is starting to build out and we’re really starting to find our place in Washington.”
“Now we’re building a culture of entrepreneurship essentially within the law firm where we’re bringing in people who are focused on client development,” Loadholt said. “I call it unicorn fishing. If you fished before, you know you put your line out, sometimes you get a tire…sometimes you get a unicorn.”
Third on the list of firms with the greatest year-over-year upswing is Alb Solutions, reporting $480,000 in lobbying revenue in 2021 and $1.01 million in lobbying revenue in 2022, a 110 percent increase.
No. 4 Pioneer Public Affairs, with a client list includes Tesla, Feeding America and NextEra Energy, reported $2.88 million in lobbying revenue in 2022, up 93 percent from the $1.49 million in lobbying revenue it reported for 2021.
The firm started small in 2020 and has grown to a staff of 15 from just three as it brought in more clients, said Joe Britton, president of Pioneer Public Affairs.
“The issues that we focus on—climate, clean energy and sustainability—have been front and center for Congress for the last couple of years,” Britton said.
“I would be shocked if we saw that same level of growth into the future,” he said. “We just have been taking on new projects and new issues that matter to us and it’s just been a period of time where there’s been a lot of those.”
Smaller firms can be attractive to clients because they “hustle more, they tend to work a little bit harder because they have to,” said Cristina Antelo, principal and founder of Ferox Strategies, which grew to $4.8 million in lobbying revenue in 2022, up from $1.6 million in 2019.
“When you hire a big firm, you’ve got to pay for all of the overhead and usually they’ve got longer client lists. I don’t feel like you get as much bang for your buck on the service side of things,” she said.
Some smaller firms that are partisan can see revenue changes when party control changes on Capitol Hill, as happened in January, said Tim LaPira, political science professor at James Madison University who specializes in the study of Congress and lobbying.
“Firms that are tied to the new majority see a spike in their revenues because they’re going to have connections to the party leadership and the committee chairs,” he said. “When they get in the majority, you see them attracting many more clients.”
Manatt and Alb, the No.1 and No.3 on the big-percentage-gainers list, didn’t respond to emailed questions.
Jorge Uquillas in Washington and Cordelia Gaffney in Washington also contributed to this story.
To contact the reporter on this story: Maura Kelly Lannan in Washington, D.C.