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Instant Insights / The American Lawyer's 40th Anniversary

To mark the occasion of its 40th anniversary, The American Lawyer looked back at the origins of the magazine—and the industry—while also taking a look at what changes might be in store in the near future.

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Predictions are dangerous business. Take the question of how big law firms can get. In 1999, Baker McKenzie, the largest firm in The American Lawyer’s Global 100, was home to nearly 2,500 lawyers. In 2009, it continued to employ more lawyers than any other firm in the world, nearly 4,000.

It would have been a fair bet to expect Baker McKenzie to maintain its position in 2019 with steady growth. How could anyone have scaled up quickly enough to displace the firm? And the firm did continue its upward trajectory, growing to 4,700 attorneys in the most recent survey.

Still, that bet would have been sunk by the emergence of a new megafirm, Dentons, whose rapid emergence demonstrates that predicting the terrain of the legal industry 10 years into the future is a fool’s errand.

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Dan Packel

Dan Packel covers change and innovation in the legal services market, and writes a weekly briefing for Law.com, "The Law Firm Disrupted," on these subjects. He is based in Philadelphia. Contact him at [email protected] On Twitter at @packeld

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