The nation’s 250 largest law firms grew more in the past year than in any of the previous four — mostly without the help of mergers. The top firms grew an average of 8.5 percent in 1999, compared with 7.6 percent last year. The cutoff to make the list was 153 lawyers, up six from 1998.

Among 87 firms with double-digit growth, only 23 reported mergers. Leading the 250 in non-merger growth was Philadelphia’s Duane, Morris & Heckscher L.L.P., which grew 37 percent by adding 92 lawyers. It moved to No. 95 from No. 133.

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