The average number of attorneys at NLJ 250 firms was 507, down from 535 last year. The average number of associates was 242, and their average starting salary this year was $132,178. The average number of women partners went up -- barely -- to 41. Last year, the average number of female partners was 39.4. The average number of female associates at NLJ
Of the few firms that gained significant numbers of attorneys, most did so through mergers. Bryan Cave added 76 lawyers and climbed to No. 21 by absorbing Powell Goldstein in January. Bingham McCutchen, No. 27, added 116 attorneys, mainly by merging in August with McKee Nelson. Polsinelli Shughart, with 481 attorneys, was created through the February merger of two Kansas City, Mo.-based firms, Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus and Shughart Thomson & Kilroy. Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, with 363 attorneys, was the result of the merger between Birmingham, Ala.-based Bradley Arant Rose & White and Nashville, Tenn.-based Boult, Cummings, Conners & Berry.
Covington & Burling, ranked No. 43, climbed 21 slots and added 102 lawyers for a total of 764 this year. About 50 attorneys came from Heller Ehrman, many from the defunct firm's intellectual property group.
The other additions stemmed from the firm's "long-term trajectory," said Timothy Hester, chairman of the firm's management committee. Even in a poor economy, the firm has continued to invest in talent for the long term, he said. Covington & Burling added several former government attorneys this year, including Thomas Barnett, former assistant attorney general in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, and Deborah Garza, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division. "You keep going," Hester said. "If people come along and they could help make the firm stronger for the next 10 or 15 years, you look at them."
He declined to comment on the firm's financial performance during 2009, saying only that it was not immune from the recession. Covington & Burling's gross revenue in 2008 was $531 million, up by 13.7 percent, according to The American Lawyer, an affiliate of The National Law Journal.
In addition to Fried Frank, firms with major headcount losses were Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; Dewey & LeBoeuf; Dechert; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; and Epstein Becker & Green. For more on firms with headcount declines, see Page S6.
Thirteen firms joined the list this year. Debuting at the highest spot was Clark Hill, at No. 204. With 197 attorneys, the Detroit firm has practice groups ranging from corporate to family law and criminal defense.
Most firms that slipped off the list hovered near the bottom last year. Others merged with larger firms. For example, Bell, Boyd & Lloyd, which ranked No. 167 last year with 260 attorneys, joined this year with K&L Gates. Another firm that slipped off was Tampa's Fowler White Boggs, ranked No. 211 in 2008 with 201 attorneys. In August 2008, the firm, formerly known as Fowler White Boggs Banker, announced that its insurance defense practice was breaking from the firm because of potential conflicts of interest. The split created Fowler White Boggs and Banker Lopez Gassler. Fowler White now has 131 attorneys.
The 2009 NLJ 250 was based on attorney census information covering the period between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009, that was provided by the nation's largest firms. Surveys were sent to approximately 300 firms.
For additional details, see the following articles and charts on The National Law Journal Web site:
Cuts came for nearly every type of firm imaginable.
How will the NLJ 250 look a decade from now?
Biggest Gainers, Steepest Declines
Firms that added the most lawyers to their ranks and those that took the biggest losses.
Firms new to the NLJ 250 and firms that dropped off our list -- in some cases, shutting their doors for good.
The NLJ 250
Our annual ranking of the nation's largest law firms.
Here and There
A look at the NLJ 250's branch offices: Where are the lawyers?