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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.

The American Lawyer reports on law firm financial performance for the first nine months of the year, concluding that for the first time this year, law firm revenue growth outpaced expense growth, according to a recent report by Citi Private Bank’s Law Group. The Citi results, based on a sample of 190 firms including members of the Am Law 200 and boutiques, showed that revenues grew at 5.1% for the first nine months of the year, compared to 4.1% from just the first half. The bulk of that increase stems from higher rates, which grew 4.7%, compared to demand, which grew 0.9%.

“While the first nine months of 2019 saw slower revenue growth than we saw through the same period in 2018, there are several positive trends in the results. Demand growth continued to gain momentum. Rate growth has been strong. Expense pressure has moderated, easing margin pressure. Dispersion and volatility remain but are less acute than we saw earlier in the year,” notes Gretta Rusanow, research co-author and head of Citi Bank’s advisory services. “Looking ahead, inventory levels are high. The biggest challenge to a strong year-end is the continued lengthening of the collection cycle. If firms are able to collect on strong inventory levels, 2019 should end well,” she adds.

The report also revealed that law firms headquartered in Chicago and the Midwest matched or exceeded the revenue growth across the legal industry for the first nine months of 2019. Law firms headquartered throughout the Midwest reported their revenue is 7.8% higher this year when compared to last year, the report found. “Demand is up 1.6%, which is higher than the industrywide average of 0.9%, and rates have gone up 5.8%—more than anywhere across the United States,” Rusanow notes.

“Chicago is one of the most popular legal markets in the country. From a revenue point of view, they’re matching where we’re at for the industry. On top of that, they’re sitting on pretty healthy inventory levels going into year-end,” Rusanow adds. “I’m pretty optimistic about what the top-line stories will be for Chicago through the end of the year,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The National Law Journal released its annual NLJ 500 rankings, which analyzes headcount data on the nation’s largest 500 law firms. According to the report, the number of lawyers in the NLJ 500 grew 2.5% in 2018 to 169,477, and the average firm size rose by eight lawyers last year to 339. By comparison, the NLJ 500 grew by 1% in 2017 and by about 2% in 2016. Partnerships expanded by just over 1% last year, driven by nonequity partnership growth of 3.8% in 2018, the report also revealed.

According to the report, three firms in the top ten saw upward movement including Latham & WatkinsKirkland & Ellis, and Morgan Lewis. New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston were the top cities with the most lawyers in this year’s NLJ 500. Additionally, one group that showed unexpected growth in the 2019 NLJ 500 was the category of “other” lawyers, which encompasses counsel, senior attorneys, of counsel and staff attorneys. This cohort showed a net gain of 1,171 lawyers—up 6.4% in 2018. That’s compared to a net gain of 99 lawyers, or just 0.5%, in 2017.

“The 2019 NLJ 500 tells the story of more growth in 2018 than we saw in the previous two years,” said Lisa Helem, Editor-in-Chief, The National Law Journal. “Overall, the 2019 NLJ 500 findings, especially at the top of the list, along with profit increases for much of the Am Law 200, reflect an industry enjoying rising demand and faster growth. The average head count increase—still in the low single digits—is a far cry from the 4% or 5% growth firms saw in the pre-recession period from 2005 to 2008. But given the ugly contraction that followed, there’s something to be said for this year’s more modest gains,” (as quoted in The National Law Journal).

See more highlights from NLJ 500 rankings on The National Law Journal.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

In the latest March 2018 issue, Chicago Lawyer published results from their 16th annual survey of Illinois’ largest law firms and spoke with managing partners at Chicago firms that have seen strong growth in recent years, including two of our clients Faegre Baker Daniels and Akerman.

Faegre Baker Daniels, for example, has proven that they have the right approach for Chicago growth, successfully growing their seven-attorney starter office to over 60 in just eight years. According to Chicago Lawyer’s latest survey results, Faegre Baker Daniels is the 58th largest firm in Illinois, up from 67th last year, and plans to have more than 100 lawyers in the Chicago office over the next few years. “We’re cognizant of the fact that the growth is primarily not going to come from our main markets, so we’re looking to grow in other markets,” notes Chicago managing partner, Rick Michaels. “There’s no limitation or desire to have a limited presence here. Our goal is to have [Chicago] be one of the growth vehicles for the firm as a whole.”

For Akerman, a mid-sized, full-service firm based out of Miami, growth has been a response to client demand. Chicago managing partner Scott Meyers discussed with the publication how client demand has continued to shape Akerman’s growth in Chicago, after firm headcount increased from eight to 51 lawyers since opening its doors in 2014. According to Chicago Lawyer’s recent survey, Akerman is the 67th largest firm in Illinois, up from 86th in 2017. “We did not come to Chicago just because we wanted to grow. We came to Chicago because our clients wanted us to be here. We have always worked backwards from ‘What do our clients need? What do our clients want? What do our clients expect us to be?’ rather than a strategy of ‘If we build it the clients will come,’” Meyers notes.

See highlights from the full article and survey on Chicago Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer released results from its annual Lateral Report, which tracked lateral movement strategies among the nation’s largest and most successful law firms. The report, conducted by ALM Intelligence, reported 2,895 lateral moves among Am Law 200 firms in 2017, decreasing 2.3% from 2016. According to the report, law firm leaders reported a variety of strategies aimed at improving lateral hiring such as geographic expansion, spending top dollar on superstar partners, hiring lateral groups, recruiting experts in other fields, and expanding lower cost-firms in larger markets.

Chicago-based Winston & Strawn hired the most lateral partners of any Am Law 200 firm, the report revealed. The firm brought on 73 partners, representing nearly 22 percent of its partner ranks. DLA Piper hired the second-most partners, 69—a mere 5.7 percent of its partnership. The next three firms to grow their partner ranks by more than 10 percent through lateral hiring included Cozen O’Connor, Fox Rothschild and Hogan Lovells opening new offices in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Seattle, respectively (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Kansas City, Missouri-based Polsinelli is another firm to see recent growth in the lateral partner market. Much of the firm’s recent growth has been in Chicago, where it has grown from just six lawyers in 2006 to 99 as of last December. The firm has found success recruiting from some of the city’s legacy firms, many of which have pursued a more international, higher-profit model (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law firm mergers and acquisitions are on track to reach an all-time high in 2017, according to the latest report released by legal consulting firm Altman Weil. So far this year, there have been 52 combinations announced, including 24 in the second quarter, topping the prior mid-year peak of 48 in 2016.

Altman Weil’s MergerLine report revealed acquisitions of firms with twenty or fewer lawyers accounted for 86% of all deals in the first quarter and 71% in the second quarter of 2017. For these deals, acquirers’ primary focus was the Midwest, including firms in Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Michigan, and the Southern US, including firms in Florida and Texas.

“The chief driver of combinations is the battle for market share that’s being waged in response to flat or decreasing demand for law firm services, and we don’t expect that to change any time soon,” said Altman Weil principal, Eric Seegar. “Law firms of all sizes are vying to acquire new clients, expand into new markets, and upgrade their brands through quality combinations.  Many of the largest U.S. firms are now routinely looking outside the domestic market for those opportunities.”

See the full report and article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law360 released its fourth annual Glass Ceiling Report, which surveyed 300 law firms on gender diversity and ranked firms based on the percentage of female equity partners in the United States.

According to the report, women make up just 34% of all attorneys and 23% of partners in law firms across the country. Law360’s editor in chief, Anne Urda, notes, “Intentions among law firms are good, and some slight progress has been made, but overall the numbers indicate that law firms need to do much more to close the gap among male and female associates and partners.”

Firms with the highest levels of female equity partners tend to focus on building a clear pipeline to equity partnership for women and offering benefits like work schedule flexibility, mentorship programs and greater leadership opportunities in order to retain top-performing attorneys.

Among the 300 law firms surveyed, small firms (20-149 attorneys) had the highest percentage of female equity partners, including Adelson Testan (60%), Walsworth (57.1%), Stokes Lawrence (43.5%), Berry Appleman (42.9%) and Verrill Dana (41.5%).

For medium to large sized firms (150-599 attorneys), the top five best firms for female partners were Fragomen (40.7%), Miller Nash (37.7%), Hanson Bridgett (37.1%), FordHarrison (33.3%) and Chapman & Cutler (31.2%).

In the biggest category of ‘Big Law’ firms (600+ attorneys), firms with the highest percentage of female equity partners were Littler (28.5%), Faegre Baker (27.2%), Jackson Lewis (26.1%), WilmerHale (25.1%), and Ropes & Gray (25%).

See the full article and rankings on Law360.

(Subscription required to access full articles.)

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Crain’s reported their annual list of Chicago’s largest law firms. The report, consisting of the top 25 firms in the city ranked by attorney headcount, is accurate as of June 30, 2016. The list includes the firms’ revenues, number of attorneys worldwide within each firm, and a breakdown of the number of attorneys in each practice. Two new firms joined the top 25 this year and two surpass the rest in terms of attorney headcount and revenue growth.

For over a decade, Kirkland & Ellis has remained number one with 574 local attorneys and firm wide revenue growth of 7.2 percent. Sidley Austin and Mayer Brown also managed to hold their respective positions on the list, coming in at number two and three. Jenner & Block had the highest percentage change on the top 25 this year, a 14 percent increase in both number of attorneys and revenue growth. Jenner, coming in at No. 4, now has 307 local attorneys. Winston & Strawn LLP ranked as the fifth largest firm, despite a 1.4 percent decrease in number of attorneys from last year. New to the list this year were Swanson Martin & Bell and SmithAmundsen in spots 22 and 23.

Similar to last year, almost half of the firms on the list experienced a decrease in the number of local attorneys. Schiff Hardin faced the biggest loss, an 18.8 percent drop from last year. Another was Locke Lord, which concurrently had the largest increase in revenue, a 40 percent rise to $597.2 million.

See the full article and rankings on Crain’s Chicago Business.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer released this year’s national and regional midlevel firm rankings, based on a satisfaction survey of associate responses. The survey analyzes key workplace elements such as: compensation and benefits package, training and support, relations with partners and associates, satisfaction level of the work, billable hours’ policy, and management’s openness about strategies and partnership opportunities. The participating firms were ranked on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score possible.

On the national scale, Paul Hastings earned first place again. From a survey of 51 respondents, the firm received the highest satisfaction score, a 4.763 out of 5. In numerical order, the succeeding firms in the top 5 are: Los Angeles’-based O’Melveny & Myer, Cozen O’Connor based in Philadelphia, internationally-operated Clifford Chance, and nationally-based Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher.

From a local perspective, the American Lawyer provides an overview of the top firms organized by major city. Of the top 18 markets, the scores are reflective of respondents only in that firm’s office in the designed city, not the firm as a whole. It comes as no surprise that national leader, Paul Hastings, is ranked No. 1 in multiple major cities, such as: Chicago, New York, Orange County, and Washington D.C. The same is true for nationally ranked No. 2 firm, O’Melveny, which is No. 1 in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. In the Texas market, Dallas’ top firm is Gibson Dunn, and in Houston, the leading firm is Orrick. In California, Chicago-based Winston & Strawn landed No. 1 in the Los Angeles market, and San Diego’s leading firm is Sheppard Mullin. No. 3 nationally ranked, Cozen O’Connor, leads the Philadelphia market.

See more of the highlights from the AmLaw National and Regional Midlevel Firm Rankings on the American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.