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Welcome to the inaugural NLJ 500. This year, we introduce the biggest-ever expansion of our annual NLJ 350 report—launched in 1978 with a ranking of 200 firms—to provide a more robust portrait of Big Law in the U.S. The additional 150 midsized law firms on the list bear watching as some grow into the large firms of the future, whether organically or through mergers with larger entities.

For the largest 350 firms on our list, head count numbers of attorneys in 2015 dipped slightly from the previous year, to about 146,600 lawyers, from 147,500 in 2014. That deflation flipped the 0.6 percent growth that took place in 2014. The overall numbers skew lower this year, in part because to the world’s largest law firm, Dentons, is no longer on the NLJ list. We explain why, and the impact of its absence, inside.

We also explore the numbers within the numbers in two stories: a Women’s Scorecard look at disappointing but unsurprising news that women lawyers at 254 responding firms comprise a mere 21 percent of partners; and a profile of a Bay Area firm that’s experienced notable growth riding the venture capital deal wave. Finally, there’s a wealth of charts in print and interactives online. We hope you enjoy reading the new NLJ 500 and welcome your feedback. ­–Beth Frerking, Editor in Chief

Merger-Hungry, Mid-Tier Firms May Be the Future of Big Law
Most top-level law firms in the NLJ 500, however, barely grew in size.

Why We Kicked Dentons Off the NLJ 500 and Am Law 200 Lists
The world’s largest law firm isn’t on our list this year. We explain why, and how the firm has managed never-before-seen growth.

Women in Law: A Steep Climb to Partnership
Which firms have been friendliest to female lawyers? We crunched the numbers.

How One Silicon Valley Firm Beat the Odds and Made Big Gains
Bay Area-based Gunderson Dettmer cites work in venture funding deals behind 26 percent rise in head count.

All Over the Map: U.S. Law Firms In Europe Before Brexit
Explore the NLJ 500 firms’ footprints in Europe with our interactive graphics and map.

An Interactive Ranking of the Top US Law Firms by Headcount
The NLJ 500’s inaugural year, with 150 more firms on the list.

The Firms Where Women Thrive
Law firms ranked by their percentage of female lawyers and women in their partnerships.

Big Law Across the Country
We looked at every firm, every office, every number. Among all office locations, from Akron to Zurich, these were the largest in American Big Law.

Methodology