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The rich mostly got richer in 2005, as more of the nation’s highest-grossing law firms pushed past the $1 million and $2 million marks in terms of profits per partner. Forty-five of 100 firms surveyed had profits per partner above $1 million last year, up from 37 the year before. Ten firms had profits per partner above $2 million, up from eight the year before. The survey, which tracks the financial performance of the nation’s highest-grossing law firms, was taken by the The American Lawyer, an affiliate of The National Law Journal. It was another good year for almost all major law firms. The 100 highest-grossing firms had a combined $51 billion in 2005 revenue, an 11% increase from the prior year’s $46 billion, which itself had been 10% higher than the 2003 total. Buoyed by boom times on Wall Street, New York-based firms continued their dominance of the high end of the profession. New York firms comprised 14 of the top 15 firms with the highest profits per partner in the survey. Wachtell Lipton on top Top mergers and acquisitions firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz remained the nation’s most profitable law firm, with profits per partner of $3.8 million, up 8% from the year before. Cravath, Swaine & Moore, another corporate heavyweight, was second on the chart, with profits per partner of $2.6 million, an 18% increase from 2004. Third-place Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft had a 21% increase in profits per partner to $2.5 million. It is the latest of several years in a row that the Wall Street firm has posted a large percentage increase in its profits per partner. The firm saw 30% jumps in profitability in both 2004 and 2003. Maintaining a heavy focus on its lucrative capital markets practice, Cadwalader has also avoided most expansion outside of New York and worked to keep its partnership ranks tight. The 514-lawyer firm counts only 75 equity partners, considerably fewer than most firms of similar size.
TOP 10 FIRMS IN ’05 PROFITS PER PARTNER
Rank Firm 2005 profits per partner (in millions) Change from 2004 Equity partners Lawyers
1 Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz $3.79 +8.3% 76 185
2 Cravath, Swaine & Moore $2.60 +17.9% 87 391
3 Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft $2.55 +20.6% 75 514
4 Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison $2.48 +14.8% 103 546
5 Sullivan & Cromwell $2.41 +2.6% 158 538
6 Simpson Thacher & Bartlett $2.37 +1.7% 155 647
7 Cahil Gordon & Reindel $2.29 -6.9% 64 254
8 Kirkland & Ellis* $2.12 +7.3% 192 983
9 Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy Ellis* $2.02 +6.3% 113 494
10 Davis Polk & Wardwell Ellis* $2.00 -0.2% 148 529
*Based in Chicago Source: The American Lawyer

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