Kim Kleman (Gabrielle Purchon)
You’re competitive and detail-oriented. Take our quiz:
1) Which law firm billed 6,722,709 hours (that’s 767 years) last year?
2) Which three firms made more than $1 billion in net income in 2013?
3) It takes fewer than seven lawyers from this firm to generate $10 million in partner compensation; by contrast, it takes more than 64 lawyers from a different firm to do the same thing. Name the firms.
Yes, that’s the level of detail we amass as we assemble this May issue, our biggest of the year, in which we offer our exclusive financial reporting on the 100 top-grossing law firms in the nation, The Am Law 100.
How did Big Law fare in 2013?
Overall, it was a middling year. Gross revenue for The Am Law 100 was up 5.4 percent, to nearly $77.4 billion, a bigger gain than last year. Partner head count was also up year over year. Perhaps in part because of that, other measures were essentially flat, including profits per partner and revenue per lawyer. By contrast, last year all those measures were up, albeit modestly.
How does your firm stack up?
That depends on where it falls within The Am Law 100. Twenty or so firms are ­­Super Rich, as Aric Press dubs them in his overview. They’ve outrun the pack, beating averages by four or five percentage points. Those firms had average profits per partner (PPP) of close to $3 million and revenue per lawyer (RPL) of at least $1 million. While they’ve pursued different growth strategies—some Top 20 firms have actually cut their ranks—they’ve all managed to amass the kind of complicated, pricey work for rich clients that brings in top dollars.
Several other firms in The Am Law 100 are vereins, or huge international firms. Most were among the top-grossing names on the list, and their head count grew by an eye-popping 31 percent (possibly because a new verein joined our list). For the rest of The Am Law 100, it was a wind-in-your-face year of only slight gains in gross revenues, RPL and PPP, on average. These firms and their game plans varied considerably as they fought and continue to fight for flat or declining market share.
In the latest numbers, we saw a burgeoning class of nonequity partners, the biggest growth group of 2013. They made on average $1 million less than their equity brethren. Furthermore, their status can complicate relationships with clients and with other lawyers in their firms, as Michael D. Goldhaber explores in his article.
What do those developments, plus a demographic snapshot of today’s practicing partners, portend for the future of the profession? Check out the Dicta column.
Back to the minutiae for a second. We had such fun discovering certain details of Big Law that we thought you would, too. Our favorites begin here. As for my quiz, answers are below. If you guessed all three correctly, you win, um, my admiration.
1) DLA Piper
2) Latham Watkins; Kirkland & Ellis; Skadden
3) Wachtell and Dentons