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Welcome to the 2017 NLJ 500, an annual survey that debuted nearly 40 years ago with 200 firms. In this year’s report, the number of lawyers working at the nation’s 500 largest U.S.-centric law firms in 2016 grew by about 2 percent from the previous year, to 163,700. The average lawyer count per firm bumped up slightly, to 327.

We look beyond the overall totals to explore intriguing growth shifts at individual firms, as well as what one analyst called firms’ “continuous recalibration” of strategy. For the survey’s highest-ranked firm, for example, an almost 6 percent increase in head count followed nary a merger or acquisition. Another firm, with three small acquisitions, saw its head count decline—part of a deliberate reshaping.

Read our overview of the NLJ 500 rankings, and explore the charts and lively infographics for firm breakdowns on partners, largest offices and growth shifts from 2015. In the coming days, walk through the Top 5 cities by lawyer counts, and read our annual Women in Law Scorecard, which ranks firms on gender diversity, with special emphasis on women in partnership positions.

–Beth Frerking, Editor in Chief

Podcast: Exploring the Annual NLJ 500 Survey on Law Firm Growth, Diversity and Demographics
Beth Frerking, editor in chief of The National Law Journal, and Katelyn Polantz, NLJ’s data editor and business of law reporter, unpack the the 2017 NLJ 500 survey on growth at the largest U.S.-centric law firms.

 

The NLJ 500: Which 5 Cities Have the Most Lawyers?
The NLJ 500 report each year allows us to look much further than simply firm-wide head counts. It lets us look country by country, city by city and firm by firm too.

 

4 Law Firms to Note on the NLJ 500
A newbie, a jump in the ranks, and the biggest head count gains and losses on this year’s list.

 

Immigration, Labor & Employment Law Firms Top NLJ’s Annual Women’s Scorecard
For the sixth year in a row, the Fragomen, Del Rey, Bern-sen & Loewy holds the top spot on The National Law Journal’s Women in Law Scorecard, which ranks the nation’s largest law firms according to their percentages of women attorneys.

 

Where Women Lawyers Succeed: NLJ Scorecard Reveals Which Firms Make the Grade
The Women’s Scorecard is produced as part of the annual NLJ 500 firm head count report.

 

Volatility Abounds in Large Firm Growth
While the overall growth of firms on the NLJ 500 ticked up a mere 2 percent, many have continued to grow at a rate that’s more volatile than what the average nationwide statistics suggest. This year, Baker McKenzie and DLA Piper again held the top two spots, but their growth trajectories differed remarkably.

 

The NLJ 500: Our Rankings of The Nation’s Largest Law Firms
The NLJ 500 is The National Law Journal’s survey of the 500 largest law firms in the United States covering the previous calendar year. Data is collected from firms at the same time as the Am Law financial numbers. ALM sent surveys this year to more than 900 law firms to determine the 500 largest U.S.-centric firms by headcount. Firms smaller than No. 350 are divided into two tiers instead of earning individual ranks.

 

The NLJ 500: Editor’s Note
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.