Growth was steady last year for most of the 20 largest law firms in New York, with slight to moderate gains in gross revenue and profits per partner.
The New York Law Journal compared financial indicators for the top 20 firms in The NYLJ 100, a ranking of law firms by their full-time equivalent lawyers in New York offices last year.
Among the top 20 firms on the list, 14 reported higher revenue in 2012 than they did in 2011, four reported drops, and one, Debevoise & Plimpton (with 440 lawyers in New York), reported no change in revenue. These comparisons are based on law firm financial indicators reported by The American Lawyer, an affiliate publication. Financial figures for one of the top 20 law firms in The NYLJ 100, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker (316 lawyers), are not yet available.
Latham & Watkins (333 New York lawyers) had the highest gross revenue last year among the 20 top firms, generating $2.226 billion. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom was second, earning $2.210 billion, while the firm’s 675 New York lawyers topped the headcount ranking.
Two of the 20 saw revenue hikes of more than 10 percent: Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (674 lawyers), up 12.4 percent to $877 million in gross revenue; and Kirkland & Ellis (331 lawyers), up 10.7 percent to $1.9 billion in gross revenue.
The other 12 reported moderate or slight increases. Proskauer Rose (381 lawyers) saw revenue rise 7.4 percent to $737 million; Sullivan & Cromwell (529) was up 6.4 percent to $1.2 billion; and Cravath Swaine & Moore (429) grew 6.2 percent in revenue to $603 million.
Among the top 20 firms, those reporting revenue declines were Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson (329 lawyers), falling 6.3 percent to $444 million in gross revenue; Willkie Farr & Gallagher (338), down 2.7 percent to $533 million; Schulte Roth & Zabel (325), down 1.9 percent to $370 million; and Weil Gotshal & Manges (543), down by about 0.1 percent to $1.2 billion.
Fourteen law firms also reported gains in another important indicator, revenue per lawyer, which places a dollar value on the average production of each attorney. Among the top 20, Sullivan & Cromwell had the highest revenue per lawyer, at $1.5 million, and Cravath saw the largest percentage rise in revenue per lawyer at 11.3 percent to $1.3 million.
Changes in revenue don’t always predict partner pay shifts. Eight New York law firms had larger jumps in profits per equity partner than they did in revenue. For example, gross revenue at White & Case (375 in New York) crept up 3.9 percent but the firm’s profits per partner leaped 15.3 percent to $1.7 million. Sidley Austin’s (338) gross revenue rose 5.2 percent, while its profits per partner jumped 12.1 percent to $1.8 million.
The largest profits per partner drops were Fried Frank’s 16.8 percent fall to $1.3 million and Weil’s 8.6 percent decline to $2.2 million.
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