Six years after Lehman Brothers collapsed and five years after the Great Recession officially ended, Am Law 200 law firms—the 200 top-grossing firms in the nation—are still waiting for something resembling a full recovery. At one level, it appears to have arrived. Last year The Am Law 200 set new records for gross revenue, profits and revenue per lawyer. On all fronts, the firms blew past the peaks they reached during the boom years, when ominous signals were just something to ignore.
But those financial results are much less impressive when they are rendered in inflation-adjusted dollars. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Legal Services Index as the measure of inflation, firms on average last year showed the lowest revenue per lawyer since The American Lawyer began tracking the 200 firms in 1998. Put another way, in 2013 RPL hit a record high of $776,000 in nominal terms and a record low of $438,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars.
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