Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Now the business is getting serious. Collectively, the firms that comprise The Global 100, a joint project of The American Lawyer and Legal Business, the London monthly, grossed $36 billion last year. This elite global legal market, which is multifaceted but exquisitely self-referential, has enjoyed significant growth and consolidation over the four years that we have surveyed the field. As important as the changes themselves is their velocity. Four years ago, globalization was a seminar topic for many firms; now it’s a way of life. Despite terrorism and worldwide economic cramps, the pace is not likely to slow. The global economy’s ganglia now extend into every major law firm. Foreign firms began moving into the lucrative German market as soon as strict regulations were eased in the ’90s. Now a change in German tax law may ignite continental M&A activity, and megafirms are again adding to their German offices. A scorecard can help: Four years ago, Wolfgang Feuring was a corporate partner at Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund, which became Freshfields Deringer in 1998, then Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last year. Last month, Sullivan & Cromwell announced that Feuring was joining it in Frankfurt. In the global conference room, it’s not just partners who are mobile. Mores travel: Litigious corporations that know no boundaries now opt for multilateral arbitration — and sharp-elbowed multinational litigators who can squabble like Americans. So does business: Pushed out of Indonesia? Global lawyers discover Singapore. Why stay in Kazakhstan? If you’re White & Case, it’s to feed London’s public finance practice. Why stay in New York? If you’re British, because it’s the last unconquered province — and the world’s richest market. The Global 100 is retrospective. It is based on the annual Am Law 100 and Legal Business 100 reports, supplemented by numbers from leading law firms in other nations. This year we increased the global list from 50 to 100, but our year-to-year comparisons are confined to the top 50 firms. Here are some of the most significant findings: GROWTH Head count at the top 50 firms grew by 39 percent over four years. The consolidation looks irreversible, particularly as the top tier maintains and extends its market share. Over the past two years, White & Case, which is almost everywhere, grew by 48 percent to 1,300 lawyers. Over the past six months, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, which is almost nowhere outside area code 212, increased its foreign-based partners by 50 percent — to six. EARNINGS Over the past three years, total revenue for the top 50 increased by 61 percent, from $15 billion to $24.5 billion. The number of equity partners dividing the wealth dropped by 9 percent. The result was a 27 percent increase in profits per equity partner. Equity partners at Global 50 firms earned an average of $1.1 million last year. PRODUCTIVITY Revenue per lawyer increased 16 percent since 1998. Because the variables are time (still fixed) and billing rates (evidently not), this is a significant jump. Revenue per lawyer will likely dip next year because of the widely reported fall in corporate work and the popping of the tech balloon. HAIL BRITANNIA For the first time, five of The Global 100′s 10 highest-grossing firms were based in London. Among them is Clifford Chance, which edged past Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for first place. The British firms’ decision to be pan-European and now global has paid off. THE ACCOUNTANTS We include Andersen Legal for the first time on the list. It enters in ninth place, tied with Shearman & Sterling at $590 million in revenue. Andersen is huge — with 2,880 lawyers, its head count on the Global 100 chart is second only to Baker & McKenzie’s. But for the moment it’s making a volume play — its revenue per lawyer ranks 99th, just above England’s Eversheds. According to Anthony Williams, Andersen’s global managing partner, the firm is patiently wooing higher-end work. And it is eyeing the day when U.S. bar regulations change and Andersen Legal can go shopping for clients and the local legal talent to serve them. Law firm leaders no longer talk as feverishly about the threat of the accountants, as they did a few years ago. In fact, Williams and his Big Five colleagues have not broken into the elite practice areas. But it is hard to imagine that they never will. They have financial muscle that dwarfs even the largest law firms. When the accountants decide to go shopping for U.S. legal talent, they will come bearing Steinbrenner-sized gifts. In addition, Williams identifies the U.S. as the next competitive arena for the megafirms. They’ve run out of choices: There’s not much more to carve up in Europe, and Asia is awaiting another miracle. American-based firms account for roughly 77 percent of The Global 100′s gross revenue. (Some of that comes from abroad, but most is home-based.) Clifford Chance leapfrogged to the top of the charts by grafting on New York’s Rogers & Wells. More than synergy and complementary practice groups, that bold merger was about a Rolodex — Rogers & Wells’ — and the entr�e it brought to high-level American clients. In one stroke, Clifford Chance skipped two generations of plodding client development. Now the challenge is before Allen & Overy, Linklaters & Alliance, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Can fielding a handful of splendid lateral partners get them into the American game? For the moment, those firms insist that they only want cross-border business. And for the moment that’s all they have a prayer of pursuing. But how long will these global players be satisfied with tasty crumbs from the American table?

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.