Over the past decade the primary objective of many large law firms has been a simple one: get bigger. Firms of all sizes and regional origins have made deliberate moves (and some explicit announcements) that indicate their intention of becoming national or international players in the legal space. The trajectory from regional to super-regional to national to international is well-worn; and the benefits of being an international or national law firm seem indisputable. AmLaw-reported revenue demonstrates firms who fall categorically into the international or national realm are strong performers. Their 2016 revenue is 146% higher than a typical regional firm, on average, and their profits per equity partner average 13% higher. A new regional analysis of law firm geographic profiles and growth, however, reveals the payoff from being a truly national or international law firm just may not be what it used to be.

In 2009, international law firms generated 3 times the average AmLaw firm in revenue and national firms 1.6 times the average. By 2016, both these figures dipped, with international firms dropping to 2.6 times the average and national firms to 1.3. Still higher, yet not as pronounced. Over the same time frame, the percentage of AmLaw 200 firms categorized into the international or national segment increased from 19% to 30% of law firms, a notable macro-shift in the industry in less than a decade.

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