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Seldom has the strategic divide between The Am Law 100 and the Second Hundred been so stark. Faced with a tepid economic recovery in 2012, the big boys played it safe—and their smaller competitors gambled on growth. After a disappointing 2011, the Second Hundred took in a combined total of $18.51 billion in gross revenue. But almost all that top-line growth was achieved through leverage. Total head count grew by 885 lawyers, a 3 percent increase that more than reversed a 2.5 percent drop in head count in 2011, while the total number of equity partners rose 1 percent, and the nonequity partnership ranks swelled 10.1 percent. The result: weak growth in per-lawyer and per-partner metrics. Compare that to The Am Law 100, where total head count increased just 0.8 percent, the total number of equity partners was flat, the number of nonequity partners grew just 2.5 percent, to 12,909, and growth in per-lawyer and per-partner metrics was more robust. Second Hundred firms are clearly wagering that, as the economy improves, their lower rates will drive work their way, and that their investment in new partners will pay off. Time will tell.

Previous Am Law 200 coverage :: 2012

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