Flat. Stagnant. Unchanged. How many ways can we say it? Our latest NLJ 350 survey shows that the number of attorneys at the nation’s largest law firms crept up by a meager 0.6 percent in 2014. That’s a marked contrast to last year’s 3.9 percent increase—which, on closer inspection, was the result of hundreds of foreign lawyers joining the ranks by way of U.S. and foreign firm mergers.
In 2014, just 900 lawyers were added to the tally, for a total of 147,518 lawyers working at NLJ 350 firms. No doubt, it could have been worse. Remember 2009? That year, lawyer totals plunged by 4 percent in response to the recession. Still, the results for 2014 reveal the weakest increase since then.
We asked hundreds of firms for information about their head counts and hiring habits. We analyzed the results and added up the lawyers working in the thousands of NLJ 350 offices around the world.
This week, we look at partners, associates and staff lawyers and report on gains and losses in those groups. We also examine historical data to determine how 2014 fit into the big picture. Next week, in our NLJ 350 Regional Report, we’ll take a closer look at where the changes occurred. —Leigh Jones, senior editor
THE BIG VIEW
The number of lawyers at the nation’s largest 350 firms increased by just 0.6 percent in 2014.
CHART: THE NLJ 350
Our annual ranking of the nation’s largest law firms, plus data on equity partners, nonequity partners, associates and the rest.
A ‘SUPER’ MERGER
Stinson Morrison & Hecker and Leonard, Street and Deinard got married last year. It looks like a successful match that created a Midwest super-regional firm.
WASHINGTON FIRM’S WOES
Dickstein Shapiro is nearly half the size it was three years ago, but it’s now dealing with the indictment of a key player.
ASSOCIATES STAY STATIC
Law firms, on the whole, were uninterested in bringing aboard additional junior lawyers last year, employing 67,363 overall.
In an otherwise flat year, some firms experienced big drops in attorney head counts due to intentional cuts or partner defections.
CHART: GAINS AND LOSSES
The firms that added the most lawyers in 2014 — and the ones with the largest decreases.
Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney expanded by almost 19 percent last year, fueled mainly by products liability and mass tort defense work.
NEW TO THE LIST
Seven firms made their debut on the NLJ 350 this year. A look at their leaders provides a view of their growth strategies.