Beth Frerking. (Photo: Zoltan van Heyningen)

Welcome to the 2017 NLJ 500, our annual report ranking the nation’s largest 500 U.S.-centric firms, with breakdowns of total lawyers, partners, yearly comparisons and largest offices, among other data. (NLJ’s head count survey was launched in 1977 covering 200 firms; we increased our catchment from 350 to 500 firms for the first time last year.)

The top takeaway: Lawyer head counts among NLJ 500 firms grew slightly more than 2 percent, outperforming last year’s overall growth of 0.6 percent.

Two features anchor this year’s report: an overview by business-of-law and data reporter Katelyn Polantz that examines the overall findings and explores firms’ distinctive growth strategies. And a report on the Women’s Scorecard by reporter Meghan Tribe.

Because this is our inaugural NLJ 500 report in the monthly magazine format, we benefitted from the ability to provide more informational graphics to illustrate our survey findings in a digital-friendly way — but in glossy print. (Kudos to our ace design team.) See mini-profiles of four firms, including the highest-ranking new entrant on the NLJ 500. Walk through Top 5 Cities by head count. And reserve a long sit to delve into the main NLJ 500 rankings chart.

Our Women’s Scorecard, based on responses from 261 firms among the largest 350 of the NLJ 500, deserves special attention this year, especially given recent events.

Last month, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris had the unpleasant distinction of being interrupted by her male colleagues at two separate high-profile Senate Intelligence Committee hearings­.

A few days later, Arianna Huffington, publishing entrepreneur and now a board member of Uber, explained to fellow directors that by having one woman on a corporate board, it’s likely more women would follow. Billionaire David Bonderman couldn’t resist. “Actually,” he interrupted, “what it shows is, it’s much likely there’ll be more talking.” He was promptly outed in media reports and resigned from the board, also issuing an apology.

Both instances reflect a destructive imbalance of women’s participation and power at every level, especially in government and many high-paying professions, including law.

That’s why you shouldn’t miss two of our regular features this month: Triple Shot and Regulatory Face-Off. In Triple Shot, we profile Sharon Barner of Cummins Inc., a veteran IP lawyer and former USPTO official. And in Face-Off, Morgan Lewis partner Grace Speights, a heavy hitter in Washington legal circles, takes on former EEOC general counsel P. David Lopez on labor and employment issues.

It’s a steep climb ahead, sure, but women like Barner and Speights serve as important examples. Happy reading.

For more NLJ 500 coverage, click here.