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The past year posed new and unusual challenges for U.S. law firms, rattled by economic uncertainty, remote work, stay-home orders and social distancing. Despite the turmoil, profits at the Am Law 100 leapt to new heights. Eight firms posted net income in excess of $1 billion in 2020, profits per equity partner spiked 13.4%, and the average profit margin bumped from 40% to 43%.

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Kirkland & Ellis led the Am Law 100 in profits with $2.95 billion, with Latham & Watkins next at $2.37 billion. They were joined in an expanded billion-dollar club by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Jones Day; White & Case; and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Profit increases were widespread, hitting nearly all of the Am Law 100. Profits per equity partner improved at 92 firms in the group, up from 86 the previous year, and only six posted lower PEP in 2020 than in 2019, compared with 14 the previous year. PEP averaged $2.231 million across the Am Law 100.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz set a new record with PEP of $7.5 million, on the back of 18.5% growth, while Littler Mendelson ranked last among the Am Law 100 at $570,000. The difference between the two was $6.93 million.

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Brenda Sapino Jeffreys

Senior reporter Brenda Sapino Jeffreys covers the business of law in Texas. Contact her at [email protected] On Twitter: @BrendaSJeffreys

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