The Am Law 100 showed gains of more than 5 percent in top-line revenue and head count growth in 2013, hitting a new record of $77.4 billion generated by 92,007 lawyers. At the same time, the 100 top-grossing firms in the nation registered flat performances on other key metrics, among them profits per partner (PPP) and revenue per lawyer (RPL). Average RPL was down by 0.4 percent, to $840,963, while average PPP nudged up by just 0.2 percent, to $1,470,022. Those results were in marked contrast to the firms’ performance in 2012, a year that showed across-the-board improvement.
Once The Am Law 100 could take growth almost for granted. That was not the case in 2013. Last year, the RPL and PPP results did not keep pace with inflation. In several important categories firms retreated. Twenty-five firms saw their RPLs drop. Forty-six firms shed lawyers. On profits per partner, 32 firms had dips, even as 50 cut the number of their partners who had equity status. It’s a fair leap to conclude that if fewer firms had reduced their equity partner ranks, even more firms would have suffered PPP drops. Cutting partners tends not to be a growth strategy, except on paper.
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