Last year marked the biggest headcount gains for lawyers at the nation’s 350 largest firms since 2009 — the year firms slashed their ranks in response to the recession. Our latest NLJ 350 survey, The National Law Journal‘s annual ranking of U.S. law firms by number of attorneys, shows that, overall, they grew by 3.9 percent in 2013. That’s an additional 5,562 lawyers — equivalent to about 1 1/2 Baker & McKenzies. But compare that to 2007, when 6,790 lawyers joined the nation’s 250 largest law firms. Yes, 250 firms — back then, that was the number of law firms we ranked. Still, the increase in 2013 represented a healthy improvement from the 1.1 percent uptick in 2012 and indicates that firms, overall, are at the point between surviving and thriving. — Leigh Jones
THE BIG PICTURE
The number of lawyers at the nation’s 350 largest firms grew by 3.9 percent, but the celebration is tempered.
THE NLJ 350 CHART
Our annual ranking of the nation’s largest 350 law firms, plus data on equity partners, nonequity partners, associates and the rest.
See our regional report on the top U.S and international markets.
Associate ranks increased 3.6 percent. But wait. Excluding key international mergers last year, the growth was flat.
FIRMS AT A LOSS
Some firms that avoided making tough choices following the recession are having to do so now amid a stagnant market for legal services.
IF NOT ONE THING …
It’s the “others.” Attorney numbers shot up in this category by 8.8 percent. For some, it’s flexibility; for others, it’s pointing to an exit.
GETTING BIGGER, QUIETLY
Quintairos Prieto may be the fastest growing firm you’ve never heard of. The minority-owned shop based in Miami grew 26 percent last year.
Day Pitney’s headcount has dropped by about 31% since the firm was created through a merger in 2007.
APPLES AND ORANGES
Large law firms saw their biggest headcount expansion since the recession, but the picture was much different from the last time firms saw major gains.
Despite a record number of domestic law firm mergers in 2013, these pairing were small in size, leaving many NLJ 350 firms without much of a boost in the rankings.
NEW TO THE LIST
Twelve law firms joined the NLJ 350 this year. Their leaders provide a look at their strategies for growth.
How we conduct our annual survey.