The Am Law 100: Lessons of the Am Law 100
It could have been worse. That's the best that can be said for last year's performance from The Am Law 100, the top-grossing law firms in the US. Three of the four key categories that have been measured for 25 years - gross revenue, headcount and revenue per lawyer (RPL) - fell, while profits per equity partner (PEP) barely increased by 0.3% - up $3,463 (£2,300) to $1.26m (£840,000). But on average, even the bad results weren't nearly as dire as many firms had feared just a year ago. Overall, gross revenue was off by 3.4% and headcount dropped by about 1%. The firms earned a total of $64.8bn (£43.2bn), down roughly $2.3bn (£1.5m). And, in the first year-on-year reduction in headcount since 1993, they cut their lawyer labour force by 1,219 to 80,772. For all the heated attention paid to layoffs, about half the firms actually increased their numbers last year. RPL, which we regard as the most telling economic indicator, was down $15,697 (£10,400) to $802,381 (£534,000), a 2% decline. This was the second consecutive year in which RPL fell, another sign of the toll of the weak economy.
By aggressively cutting costs, The Am Law 100 eked out a small increase in profits. But the tough choices are just beginning. Aric Press and Greg Mulligan report
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