At first glance, Big Law has much to celebrate in the recently released 2017 Am Law 100 figures. The data shows revenue growth of 4.3% for the United States’ largest 100 law firms. This is twice the growth rate of the broader economy. More importantly, firms are reporting record profitability. Profits per equity partner, for the average Am Law 100 firm, now sit at a towering $1.6 million. This is an all-time high for the Am Law 100, even after adjusting for inflation. Other year-on-year metrics show equally strong performance. In fact, nearly every important metric of health suggests the legal industry’s largest firms had a good year.
Before celebrating these successes, law firm leaders should dig deeper into the Am Law 100 data. While the year-on-year trends look appealing, a longer-term analysis reveals that many key metrics are showing signs of pressure, and firm performance is growing increasingly erratic. The Am Law data reveals that the past year has been good to Big Law but it also shows growing signs of problems on the horizon.