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The American Lawyer released its annual Global 100 report, a ranking of the world’s 100 largest law firms by gross revenue, profits per partner, and total attorney headcount. Overall, gross revenue grew by 4.7 percent to $119.6 billion, and profits per equity partner increased, on average, by 0.4 percent. Attorney headcount also saw an increase this year, with an annual growth of 8.0 percent. Additionally, that same assessment can be applied to the Global Second Hundred, which grew at a 3.6% clip, resulting in total revenue of $33.1 billion, bringing the aggregate figure for the full Global 200 to $152.7 billion. According to the report, much of this growth can be attributed to head count increases, particularly in the Second Hundred, where firms increased their complement of lawyers by 10.2%.

The report revealed that a total of 50 firms cracked the $1 billion mark, up from 46 firms last year. Of the Global 200 firms on the list, United States accounted for 139 of the world’s top-grossing firms, followed by 25 from the United Kingdom, 10 firms from China, and 7 firms from Canada. Seventy-five firms equaled or topped $1 million in PEP, compared with 73 firms last year, the report notes. Additionally, this is the fifth time in the history of Am Law’s global ranking that U.S.-based firms occupied the top four spots. The top five firms in their respective order were Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, DLA PiperBaker & McKenzie and Dentons.

A wider look at the Global 100, ranked by revenue, offers a picture of stability, the report adds. Eight of the firms in 2019’s top 10 remained there this year, as Allen & Overy and Linklaters both slipped slightly. And only one firm, recent trans-Atlantic merger product Womble Bond Dickinson, exited the top 100, replaced by labor and employment specialists Jackson Lewis. The Global Second Hundred does have a handful of newcomers. The highest among them is Spain’s Uría Menéndez, at 167. The other fresh faces are Australia’s Corrs Chambers Westgarth, China’s Jingsh Law Firm and U.S. firms Foley Hoag and Fisher Phillips, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See the full rankings and highlights from The Global 100 on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer released its annual A-List rankings of the top 20 “most well-rounded” law firms in the United States. According to the report, law firms are ranked based on a combination of financial and cultural factors including revenue per lawyer, pro bono commitment, racial diversity, associate satisfaction and gender diversity among the equity partnership level. The last metric was added to A-List’s calculation in 2017 to recognize firms for supporting women and making them partners.

In a year that’s been marked by upheaval and uncertainty, there’s also plenty of continuity in the upper reaches of the A-List. For the second year in a row, Munger Tolles & Olson claimed the No.1 spot on this year’s list, while landing in the top five for a fifth time in the last five years. Ropes & Gray landed the No. 2 spot, improving across all five categories, most notably associate satisfaction. At O’Melveny & Myers, improvements in the firm’s metrics for racially diverse attorneys and women in the equity partnership fueled a four-place jump into the No. 3 position, marking the firm’s third straight year in the Top 10 and its fifth time on the list in the last five years.

Los Angeles-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips returned to this year’s list following two years off, rising seven places to No. 15, thanks to a 20.5-point improvement in the female equity partner category. Two more firms new to this year’s A-List rankings included Cravath Swaine & Moore (No.17), and Arnold & Porter (No.19). A few firms on the list made last year’s Top 20 but faced shortcomings in vital areas, forcing them off in 2020. Those four firms were Shearman & Sterling, Buckley, Milbank, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

See more highlights from the A-List rankings on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer recently published results from its annual Am Law 200 report, noting that for the first time in years the second hundred largest grossing law firms matched the growth of the top one hundred in nearly every key financial metric. Overall, the Second Hundred increased gross revenue on average by 5 percent, profit per equity partner grew 4.6 percent, revenue per lawyer increased 2.9 percent, and overall headcount rose 2.1 percent.

According to the report, twenty-one Second Hundred firms saw double-digit revenue growth and forty firms saw revenue increase by more than five percent. Within those numbers, there were pronounced differences among different groups in the Second Hundred, as firms ranked 151 through 200 nearly doubled the growth of those ranked 101 through 150, posting a 7.2% revenue increase on average, compared with 3.9% for the top half of the list, the report notes.

Among the Second Hundred firms, Burr & Forman had the largest increase in revenue, jumping 14 spots to No. 155, up 32% from last year. Two firms dropped from the Am Law 100 to the Second Hundred this year: Baker Donelson (101) and Williams & Connolly (102). Meanwhile, three firms joined the Am Law 200: Cole Scott & Kissane (163); Hanson Bridgett (192); and Pryor Cashman (178).

Additionally, twenty-five Am Law 200 firms based or founded in the Midwest increased their revenue on average by 8% last year. Seven of them posted double-digit gains, far exceeding the average 5% growth the Am Law 200 and the 6% growth Chicago-based firms saw in 2018. Those seven firms were Barnes & Thornburg, Polsinelli, Ice MillerPorter Wright, Robins Kaplan, Benesch, and Spencer Fane.

“Now, as this year’s Second Hundred stare down another major financial crisis, one that will likely be worse than the last, they can learn from the lessons of the past: focus on strong leadership; stay nimble; capitalize on their smaller size; stick with growth strategies; and diversify services when appropriate. Faced with a daunting future, it could mean the difference between success and failure,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See more highlights from The Am Law 200 on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

In a recent article, “The Rise of the Non-Equity Partner: Short Term Gain for Long Term Pain?,” James Willer, writing for Law.com, reports on the rise of non-equity partnership in today’s lateral market. According to ALM Intelligence, the number of non-equity partners across the Am Law 200 over the past ten years has increased by 36% from 17,086 to 23,166. On average, non-equity partners now represent a 44% share of the overall partnership at Am law 200 firms. This contrasts with 38% in 2009. In 2018 alone, 46% of Am Law 200 firms increased the proportion of non-equity partners within their overall partnership. By increasing non-equity numbers, while keeping equity partners relatively flat or at least growing incrementally, firms can maintain high-levels of Profits Per Equity Partner (PEP) and therefore bolster retainment of its top-performing equity partners, the article notes.

Accordingly, law firms in the top echelons of the legal market have come to realize how useful PEP can be as a competitive advantage in the lateral hiring market. For these firms, PEP is now not only one of the most important metrics at their disposal but provides the primary means to maintain a business model built largely on talent management, recruitment, and retention. This weaponizing of PEP has since trickled down to the rest of the market, as more firms begin to grapple with issues of retainment and retention of top performers. The result has been a market-wide shifting of the partnership model. Partnership adjustments are one of the few remaining mechanisms at the disposal of firms that can be reliably utilized to increase PEP expeditiously, (as quoted in Law.com).

The shift towards more non-equity partners is only likely to accelerate as the lateral hiring market’s requisite need for strong PEP growth intensifies, Willer notes. However, Willer cautions that firms should be wary of placing too much short-term emphasis on tweaking partnership structures. To do so runs this risk of losing sight of the need to ensure that more organic measures of long-term sustainability such as RPL growth and costs management still need to be adhered to. According to Willer, firms need to have in place clear strategies from the outset to secure and retain talent not just at the equity level, but across the full spectrum of partnership. This could include ensuring contributions to firm profitability or business development are effectively incentivized or having in place clear pathways of professional development, (as quoted in Law.com)

See highlights from the full article on Law.com.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports that more than 3,100 lateral partners moved between Am Law 200 firms in 2019, with corporate partners accounting for 25% of those moves, according to recent data released by ALM Intelligence. The total is 14.5% higher than last year’s lateral total of 2,754, largely as a result of an improved methodology used to collect this year’s data, which affects the year-over-year comparison. Over the past two decades, the number of lateral partner moves, tracked by The American Lawyer since 2000, has ranged from just above 2,000 to more than 3,000 a year, the article adds.

The article reported that at least 580 corporate partners joined the ranks of the Am Law 200, while 469 departed, which adds up to a net gain of 111 partners. Litigation partners accounted for another quarter of the past year’s laterals. Banking and Finance partners were the third-most-transient practice, comprising nearly 14% of all laterals. Interestingly enough, given the warnings of a recession, bankruptcy attorneys were the least transient, accounting for just a small fraction of the year’s lateral moves, at 2.4%, ALM Intelligence reports.

According to the report, Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild saw the greatest percentage growth via lateral moves, as its partnership ranks grew by 60, or roughly 18%, on the back of 102 lateral hires, offsetting 42 departures. The firm has been growing steadily since it first cracked the Am Law 200 in 2015, the article notes. Additionally, the article noted that Winston & Strawn saw the greatest net defections among the Am Law 200, losing 52 partners and adding 17, for a net loss of 35, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Nearly three-quarters of Am Law 200 firms have had a lateral partner leave within the past five years due to an issue with personality or law firm culture, according to data released by ALM Intelligence. A lawyer’s business is easier fixed than their character, notes Polsinelli’s CEO Chase Simmons. And while there’s no one lateral partner who can affect a law firm’s revenue numbers on their own, a toxic partner could ruin a firm’s culture, he adds. “Culture is more permanent. Everything derives from the culture,” Simmons says. “If you mess with that, the dollars aren’t going to follow.”

“Law firms are constantly on the hunt for top talent, and they have recently began building programs focused on lateral integration. The reasons for doing so are interconnected. For one thing, firms use their programs as a selling point in their recruitment efforts. They also lead to better retention rates. Nearly every law firm The American Lawyer spoke with for this story touted a higher five-year retention rate than the 60% average that ALM Intellection reported last year among Am Law 200 firms,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports that the U.S. law firm industry had another strong year in 2019 and revenues for 2020 are predicted to continue growing at a healthy rate, according to a new report from Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group and Hildebrandt Consulting. The report found that after a slow start to the year, firms progressively improved their financial performance, and are expected to grow revenues between 5.5% and 6.5% over the course of the full year.

As in other post-recession years, the primary driver of revenue growth was an increase in billing rates, rather than demand growth, the report revealed. During the first nine months of 2019, billing rates had the highest growth rate since before the recession, growing by an average of 4.7 percent. By contrast, demand grew far less than in 2018 at a rate of 0.9 percent. The most significant impact on revenue growth was the continued trend of a lengthening of the collection cycle, which was largely driven by clients delaying payment of their bills, the report revealed.

The report also identified an active lateral recruiting market as a key trend in 2019, combined with a majority of firms hoping to grow the size of their equity partnership in the coming years.“The success rate of laterals has improved. In the past, half the laterals weren’t really accretive to the firm,” explains Brad Hildebrandt, Chairman of Hildebrandt Consulting. “But firms have become much more cautious about who they’re hiring.”

The key reason for the better success rate is even greater rigor on the lateral hiring process, Hildebrandt argues. Firms are aligning hiring with their overall strategy, improving their due diligence, and working harder to integrate new partner hires. “This eagerness to add talent at the top of the leverage pyramid will likely continue, with 61% of leaders surveyed saying they aim to add equity partners in the next two years,” Hildebrandt adds.

“Looking ahead, we expect that the most successful firms will continue to expand and innovate—despite ongoing geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainty and volatility, and a challenging talent market. For those firms, expansion will be closely aligned to the firm’s business strategy—more so than pursuing opportunistic growth,” Gretta Rusanow, Head of Advisory Services at Citi Private Bank concluded. “For many firms, the steps they are taking to do more with existing clients and broaden their client base, focus on growth practices, industries and regions, and introduce further efficiencies in the way they deliver legal services will go a long way to ensuring that 2020 is a successful year.”

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer published results from its annual Midlevel Associates Survey, finding that “third-, fourth- and fifth-year associates are as happy than ever at their law firms.” The survey, conducted at 96 participating law firms, asked third-, fourth- and fifth-year associates to rate their firms on several aspects of job satisfaction, including: compensation and benefits; training and guidance; interaction with partners and other associates; interest and satisfaction level with the work; the firm’s policy on billable hours; and management’s openness about firm strategies and partnership chances. Midlevels graded their workplaces in these categories on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.

According to the report, associates in their third, fourth and fifth years gave an average composite score of 4.29 out of 5, an increase from last year’s average of 4.27. “Associate satisfaction grew in nearly every category lawyers were asked to rate. The results bode well for retention, in particular. The greatest improvement in average score was in the “expect to stay two years” category, rising to 4.18, compared with 4.12 last year. Midlevel associates are also happier on average with regard to the type of work they’re doing and the training they are getting. The average score for “interesting work” was 4.51, up from 4.47 last year, and the average for “satisfying work” was 4.39, up from 4.37. Scores for “training and guidance” and “partner relations” increased by similar margins, to 4.24 and 4.45, respectively,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

“Young lawyers appreciate law firms’ efforts to improve work-life balance, the report revealed. Training and mentorship also appear to be working well for firms that have made efforts to improve in those areas. But associates also cautioned their firms in some cases throughout the survey, warning that burnout is a risk and calling on leaders to continue to modernize their business models by moving away from longstanding billable hour policies,” the article reports. Of the 96 firms surveyed, the top five firms in terms of midlevel associate satisfaction in numerical order were Schulte Roth & Zabel, Paul Hastings, Drinker Biddle & Reath, O’Melveny & Myers, and Blank Rome.

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer published results from its annual Am Law 200 report, which includes data and rankings for the nation’s Second Hundred highest grossing law firms. Overall, gross revenue increased on average by 3.1 percent, net income grew by 2.9 percent, profit per equity partner grew by 2.8 percent, revenue per lawyer increased 1.6 percent, and overall headcount rose 1.5 percent. According to the report, eleven Second Hundred firms saw double-digit revenue growth and thirty-eight firms saw revenue increase more than five percent.

The 2019 Am Law 200 report shows a tempered version of the financial strength demonstrated by the Am Law 100 notes Gina Passarella, Editor-in-Chief of The American Lawyer and ALM’s Global Legal Brands. “Firms, on average, performed well, but the growth was significantly less than what the first 100 firms experienced, highlighting the added pressures faced by smaller firms with less differentiation. In that sense, the Am Law 100’s better performance in 2018 is emblematic of another feature of that larger group: greater historical volatility. Second Hundred managing partners need not look upon that with envy,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See more highlights from The Am Law 200 on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports that law firm demand in 2018 was the highest on record since 2011, according to a recent report by Thomson Reuters. Further amplifying evidence that law firms, especially the largest, reached new financials highs in 2018. Another report, conducted by Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group, found that revenue growth was up 6.4 percent at the 191 firms surveyed by the bank. And in the last two weeks, Wells Fargo reported average law firm revenue growth at 5.9 percent and average net income growth at 7.6 percent, the strongest numbers since before the Great Recession.

Thompson Reuters report specifically revealed that law firm demand, billing rates and lawyer productivity all rose during the year. According to the analysis, demand, measured as the number of hours billed, rose 1 percent for the year among all firms. Among the Am Law 100 firms, that number was 2.8 percent. Am Law Second Hundred firms and midsize firms saw demand growth in 2018 of 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. The Am Law 100 was the only segment of firms that saw demand growth in all four quarters of the year, the report found, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Fortunately for smaller firms, rate growth was more evenly distributed, the report notes. The Am Law 100 saw rates grow 3.8 percent in 2018, compared to 2.9 percent for firms in the Second Hundred and midsize categories. The report also notes that Am Law 100 firms were the only segment of firms to show positive full-year growth in productivity, which measures hours worked per lawyer. The 100 largest firms by revenue grew productivity in 2018 by 0.8 percent, while that figure was flat at Second Hundred and midsize firms, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Mike Abbott, a Thomson Reuters vice president for enterprise thought leadership and content strategy, said that while 2018 was a banner year for law firms— especially the nation’s largest—there remains uncertainty around 2019, especially after the fourth quarter was somewhat softer than earlier quarters. “Whether the tailwinds will continue in 2019 remains to be seen, as client rate pressure and a shifting competitive landscape for legal services continue to pose challenges,” Abbott said in a statement. “And while the entire market was improved in 2018, we saw an increasingly segmented market where the very largest firms gathered the lion’s share of the gains last year.”

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.