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Ten years ago, gloom and doom prevailed in the nation’s law offices. More than half the Am Law 100 firms saw their profits per partner sink or stagnate in 1990, and firms were routinely laying off associates. In 1999 the contrast could hardly have been sharper. Firms were turning away clients, profits per partner registered almost universal gains, and associates were the hottest commodity since Beanie Babies. But well beyond the economic boom’s impact on bottom lines and labor markets, the nation’s largest law firms experienced profound changes in the last decade: A full fifth of the 1990 Am Law 100 firms either disbanded or dropped off the list. The rise of Silicon Valley and, more quietly, the growing economic clout of the South pushed a raft of firms onto the Am Law 100 charts. Conversely, some firms even in the rarified ranks of the top 20 managed to suffer embarrassing falls in profits during one of the strongest economic booms in American history. In this section we take a look at the winners and losers, the newcomers, the do-gooders, and the megamoneymakers of the 1990s. BIGGEST MOVERS OF THE DECADE We’re movin’ on up. Several firms in the 1990s posted sharp rank changes in multiple categories. The biggest mover in The Am Law 100 was Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which jumped 70 ranks in gross revenue in the 1990s. Brown & Wood made the largest jump in profits-per-partner positions, springing from a rank of 79 in 1990 to a 28th-place finish in 1999. Pepper Hamilton sits among the top five downward movers in profits per partner and gross revenue rankings. At the beginning of the decade Pepper was ranked 61 on The Am Law 100, but by 1999 it was on the brink of falling from the list at number 99. Some of the largest shifts in profits and revenue were the result of contingency fees that skewed a firm’s numbers for a given year. Among the most dramatic examples of this change were Vinson & Elkins, Graham & James, and Kelly Drye & Warren, which received large contingency payouts in 1990, 1999, and 1990, respectively; they were excluded from the decade comparison. RISE OF THE SOUTH Dixie is whistling. In the most dramatic regional rise of the nineties, the South’s representation on The Am Law 100 shifted from four firms mostly clustered in the bottom third of the list to eight firms distributed throughout The Am Law 100. Nearly all the southern firms on the 1990 list posted double-digit rises in rank during the 1990s. Most spectacularly, Tampa’s voraciously acquisitive Holland & Knight rose from 91 to 28 on The Am Law 100. At the same time, four new southern firms appeared on the list: Miami’s Greenberg Traurig (52), Atlanta’s Alston & Bird (64) and Kilpatrick Stockton (86), and Winston-Salem, North Carolina’s Womble Carlyle (94) were the debutantes of the 1990s. BAY AREA The wave of wealth that swept over law firms during the 1990s reached tidal proportions in the San Francisco Bay Area. While other firms’ slice of the revenue pie grew slightly larger each year from 1990 to 1999, Bay Area firms’ earnings were downright colossal. The average gross revenue and profits per partner at Bay Area law firms on The Am Law 100 nearly doubled during the 1990s. Wilson Sonsini was the largest mover of all Am Law 100 firms, vaulting from 99th place in 1990 to a twenty-ninth-place finish in 1999. Cooley Godward, which did not even place among The Am Law 100 in 1990, ended the decade among the top 50 firms in profits per partner and revenue per lawyer. The success of Cooley and Wilson can be credited to a concerted effort in the 1980s to position themselves as major players in the Silicon Valley tech explosion. Among those that held on to an Old Economy practice style and lost ground to their Palo Alto neighbors was McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, which started the decade among The Am Law 100, but fell from the list by 1999. PRO BONO More time in the office means less time for the poor. That’s the message that came from lawyers in the 1990s, who worked longer hours for their paying clients, while spending fewer hours on pro bono work. Am Law 100 lawyers dedicated over one-third less time to pro bono work in 1999 than in 1992, when The American Lawyer began listing pro bono figures. (Prior to 1992, only a report card system was used.) Lawyers at the top pro bono law firm in 1992, Arnold & Porter, logged an average of 220.6 hours in pro bono work. In 1999 the number one Am Law 100 firm, as measured by pro bono hours per lawyer, was Covington & Burling, which had only 105.5 pro bono hours per lawyer. The national trend of firms’ decreased commitment to pro bono was even starker in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1992 the average lawyer in a Bay Area Am Law 100 firm logged over 80 hours of pro bono work, but by 1999 the same group gave less than 30 hours of their time to pro bono causes. Related Chart: 1990 – 1999: The Way We Were Amlaw 100 Index

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