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Has it really been 25 years since we started asking large law firms about the money they make? Actually, if you count from the first iteration of our annual financial survey, The Am Law 50 [July/August, 1985], it’s been 27 years. (The list expanded to 100 firms two years later, in 1987.) But for the reporters and editors who made those first calls, the memories are still fresh. Assistant editor Irene Plagianos tracked down seven former Am Law staffers to find out how it all began. Steven Brill, former editor in chief: I had this house in Bedford, New York, and after we’d put the kids to sleep, I’d get a big tumbler of Scotch and some ice and I’d go and sit outside under the stars and think of story ideas. . . . Inevitably, six or eight would be just absolutely awful. That night the Fortune 500 had just come out and I thought to myself, “Well, that’s it. We can do this. We can rank the firms.” . . . So I came into the ­office that Monday morning for our ­editorial meeting with the idea, and someone said, I don’t remember who: “You’re crazy, you’re fucking nuts. Who’s gonna tell?”

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