Law firms got bigger in 2012, but just barely. This year’s NLJ 350, The National Law Journal‘s annual survey of the nation’s biggest law firms by number of lawyers, shows that firms grew by just 1.1 percent during 2012, a retrenchment from 1.7 percent growth in 2011. A full 140 firms on this year’s list shrank in size — 40 percent of the group. What little gains occurred largely were in the partner numbers, which climbed by 1.5 percent — a figure itself far removed from the pre-recession boom days when partner increases ran in the 5 percent range. In all, we counted 141,056 lawyers working in more than 3,500 offices around the world.
The trickle of growth in the NLJ 350 is an indicator of economic wariness among the largest U.S. law firms.
The Old Rules No Longer Apply
Tepid growth among the nation’s 350 largest law firms in 2012 showed that the highly leveraged, bottom-heavy ways of doing business have become unsustainable.
THE NLJ 350 FIRMS
The complete list of the largest U.S. law firms.
Arrivals and Departures
The firms with the biggest gains and the steepest declines in headcount.
Who’s On and Who’s Off
Fifteen new firms made their way onto our list this year; fifteen dropped off.
A Decade of Headcount Change
Year-over-year percentage changes in number of lawyers at NLJ 350 firms show industry highs and lows.
Associate hiring at NLJ 350 firms inched up by only 1 percent, but these firms had robust increases.
THE REGIONAL REPORT
The Hot Markets, and the Cold
Our Regional Report takes the headcount numbers from our NLJ 350 survey and dices up the data, region by region.
Ranking the States: Where Do Big Firm Lawyers Work?
A state-by-state breakdown of attorney headcount at NLJ 350 firms.
Largest Law Firm Offices in the United States
More than 19,000 lawyers work in the 50 largest U.S. offices.
Largest international offices of NLJ 350 firms.
Countries with the Most NLJ 350 Lawyers
The top 10 foreign nations by headcount of lawyers from large U.S. law firms.
The NLJ 350 Branch Offices
A comprehensive list of the offices at NLJ 350 firms.
Mergers Created Largest Partner Increases
With clients weary of rate hikes, law firms acquired smaller shops with strong earners to boost revenue.
Demand for Associate Help Remains Flat
It’s not a secret that the junior-lawyer hiring market is bad, but there’s ‘help wanted’ at some law firms.
The Newcomers to the NLJ 350
Profiles of the 15 firms that entered (or rejoined) the list this year.
DLA Piper Beats Out Baker & McKenzie at Top of Chart
DLA Piper topped the list this year, marking only the third time that it has unseated rival Baker & McKenzie from the No. 1 spot in the survey’s 36-year history.
Skadden Smaller Again in 2012
The firm has decreased in size by 23 percent since 2008 and has scaled back to its 2004 attorney headcount.
Williams Mullen: Smaller Headcount Yields Higher Profits
The Richmond, Va.-based firm’s net decline totaled 36 lawyers in 2012 — part of a business strategy, its leader said.
Butler Snow: Warm, Fuzzy and Collaborative
Trite? Maybe, but lawyers and consultants say ‘culture’ is reason for Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada’s healthy growth.
12 Things You Didn’t Know About the 2013 NLJ 350
Law firms are big, hiring is low and many practices are pinched. But what other details has the NLJ 350 uncovered? Take a look at some facts that might surprise (or amuse) you.