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This is The National Law Journal‘s 27th annual survey of the nation’s largest law firms, covering the period Oct. 1, 2003, to Sept. 30, 2004. While most of the charts in the NLJ 250 are self-explanatory, here is some information about the process, the criteria and the definitions. The NLJ sent surveys to approximately 300 law firms to determine the 250 largest. Eligibility is based on a firm’s total number of attorneys, and this year the cutoff point is 162. Additionally, a firm must have more lawyers based in the United States than in any other single country. Firms are ranked by the total number of full-time equivalent (FTE) attorneys, rather than just full-time attorneys, to create a more accurate picture of the size of the firm. In some cases, due to rounding, this calculation yielded slightly higher or lower numbers than the figures submitted by the law firms. As in years past, in case of a tie, we rank firms by the total number of partners plus associates. If the tie persists, we break it based on the number of partners at each firm. The city listed under the firm name is the firm’s principal office. In cases where the firm did not wish to be identified with a single locale, the city listed is home to the firm’s largest office. “Number of attorneys” reflects permanent, FTE attorneys. The first column in the “Partners” category is the total number of partners, including the nonequity partners (NE) listed in the adjacent column. The “other” category includes the total number of nonpartner, nonassociate lawyers at the firm. Generally, this includes FTE counsel, of counsel, senior counsel and staff attorneys. In some instances, firms have new names that resulted from mergers. In those cases, the 2003 data are taken from the firm that was larger before the merger. “Starting salary” lists the base salary for a first-year associate. A “WND” in any column indicates that the firm would not disclose the data. The “Branch Offices” section lists the total number of attorneys in each city where the firm has offices. The law school rankings are based on hiring for the 2004 class of first-year associates. Some firms did not disclose the schools from which they hired, while others disclosed the schools but not the number hired. In the latter case, schools were included in the “Most Mentioned” calculations. Former NLJ research editor Cleo Cacoulidis oversaw the early stages of this project. Tasha Norman took over and saw it through to completion, ably assisted by Angela Cheng.

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