Law firms with the largest offices on the West Coast were back in the black for the most part during 2010, with revenues edging up slightly or remaining flat. Many managed to boost profits per partner, largely due to their reduced headcounts.
Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Seattle’s Perkins Coie showed substantial improvements in revenues and profits. But most reported smaller increases, and managing partners at some firms cited California’s budget problems and problematic industries such as real estate and corporate finance.
Slimmed-down firms are climbing out of the ditch
Revenues at large firms with West Coast presences are flat to modest, but profits are up. With reduced headcounts coming off the layoffs of 2009, most firms were able to improve their profit picture. There was cautious optimism about 2011, and firms have begun to hire more attorneys.
California boutiques capture corner of the China trade
They charge lower rates and cater to businesses too small to appeal to larger law firms.

LOS ANGELES
In L.A., looking for laterals
The real estate practice has picked up noticeably in Los Angeles during the past year, according to Allen Matkins senior partner and founder Frederick Allen. His firm operates a large real estate practice.
Enjoying a positive trend
Commercial litigation and intellectual property work is flowing back to Los Angeles as the recession ebbs, according to Sheppard Mullin’s chairman, Guy Halgren.

BAY AREA
Technology roaring back
Business is humming in San Francisco. The technology sector is back, and there’s work from the financial sector. Morrison & Foerster chairman Keith Wetmore describes the outlook as “quite positive.”
Partying like it’s 1999
It’s shades of 1999 in Silicon Valley. “This is the busiest things have been since then,” said Fenwick & West chairman Gordon Davidson. “We started to see tech come back a year ago, and it’s now back to a high level of activity.”
SAN DIEGO
To Frederick Kosmo, name partner at Wilson Turner Kosmo, the legal market in San Diego is a microcosm of the broader, national market. “My sense is that the bigger firms are challenged because of the difficult economy,” he said. “Smaller to midsize firms that provide more efficient services are doing OK.”
Patent work is hot again
Things are looking up for the practice of intellectual property law in San Diego, according to Roger Denning, managing partner of Fish & Richardson’s office there and firmwide hiring partner.
PORTLAND
Back to the basics
Edwin Harnden, managing partner of Barran Liebman, reported a noticeable uptick in employers seeking advisory work during the past year — a sign, he said, that the labor market in Portland, Ore., is improving.
SEATTLE
The fever has passed
The legal market in Seattle is solid but not hot — and that’s just fine with Perkins Coie managing partner Robert Giles.

WEST COAST 40
Firms with the most lawyers in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.