This year, we pushed the reset button on the way we count lawyers at NLJ 250 firms.
In the past, we asked firms to provide us with the number of lawyers at their firms as of Sept. 30 — giving readers a snapshot of a particular moment in the course of any given year.
This year, however, we've asked firms to tabulate the annual average number of full-time equivalents (FTEs). We believe this will give readers a more accurate picture of headcount over the course of a year, making the NLJ 250 a more useful tool in benchmarking hiring and headcounts.
Obviously, we're publishing before the end of the year, so we've asked firms for an estimate of FTEs for all of 2010. (To allow apples-to-apples comparisons, we also requested FTE counts for 2009 as well.)
In April 2011, we'll publish the NLJ 250 again — this time with hard numbers instead of estimates and additional analysis of the data. The numbers collected for April's survey will also be used to determine headcount information for the Am Law 200, ALM's signature survey on law firm finance. — David Brown, editor in chief
BY THE NUMBERS
The 2010 NLJ 250
Our annual ranking of the nation's largest law firms.
The U.S. locations of satellite offices of the NLJ 250 firms.
FEATURES & ANALYSIS
Vanishing Act: Year II
Attorney headcounts at the nation's largest 250 law firms dropped by 1.1% this year, marking a second consecutive year of decreases. That's only the second time in the 33-year history of the NLJ 250 that back-to-back declines occurred.
Number of women lawyers hit five-year low at NLJ 250 firms
The percentage of women partners and associates working at NLJ 250 law firms this year fell to its lowest point since 2006.
Jump in the number of 'other' attorneys at NLJ 250 firms
The average number of lawyers working as staff attorneys, counsel or of counsel at NLJ 250 law firms made a considerable jump this year, underscoring the staffing flexibility that these kinds of lawyers provide.
NLJ 250 firms' overseas offices shared in attorney losses
In keeping with the second-straight year of headcount declines among NLJ 250 firms, the international offices of some of the nation's top law firms took their share of the hit.
Chicago took the biggest hit in headcount
Chicago experienced the biggest loss this year in attorney headcounts among NLJ 250 firms in major U.S. cities. Sliding by 6.8%, Chicago dropped 530 lawyers. Notable decreases occurred at Mayer Brown; K&L Gates; DLA Piper; Drinker Biddle & Reath; and Dykema.
Getting set for the next big thing
We asked five top legal professionals to identify the future growth opportunities. Although the answer depends on firm size and focus, snagging the business that lies ahead will require firms to put resources into areas that show promise now and provide a payoff down the road.
Gains & Losses
In a year when more than half of the NLJ 250 firms trimmed lawyers, a few posted big gains. How did they manage to beat the odds? We look at three firms with headcount gains, plus three that thinned the herd.
Infographic: Big Law Towns, USA
A breakdown of total number of attorneys in 18 U.S. cities.
Associate editor Leigh Jones highlights some of the details from this year's survey results.