For years the Am Law 200 results have shown a deepening chasm between the most elite firms and the rest, and 2016 was no different. But this spread is posing a particular challenge for the firms that rank just below the largest and richest firms. The Am Law 51-100 is at a crossroads. In a legal services climate where standing out from the pack is the key to success, this varied group of firms share some common elements that make differentiation difficult to achieve.

These firms often don’t offer international services, but have enough overhead to push their rates higher than those of the group below them. They can at times be too large to be an attractive merger partner because of the risk of profit dilution. Their ability to innovate is hampered because The Am Law 51-100 have more stakeholders to get on board than smaller firms do. And they don’t have as much money to invest in innovation as the group above them, because maintaining their PPP is crucial to their ability to attract lateral talent.

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