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The American Lawyer reports that the legal industry added nearly 5,000 jobs last month, marking the sixth straight month of job gains for the legal sector, according to recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though law firms have continued announcing job cuts, the latest data — which includes attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries and others who make their living in the law — shows total U.S. legal jobs now stands at 1,117,400. While that is still well below the 1,153,700 jobs in place this time last year, the legal industry, like the wider economy, continues to recover from the loss of 64,000 jobs in April due to pandemic-related layoffs and austerity measures, the report notes.

“The steady growth was not immediately apparent several months ago, as preliminary data from August showed no growth over July. But those figures have since been adjusted upward, indicating a clear positive trend line,” notes Dan Packel of Law.com. The legal industry had 1,112,600 jobs in September and 1,110,900 jobs in August, according to numbers revised since last month. Those revised numbers show that the industry gained 1,700 jobs in September and 2,500 jobs in August (up from 1,108,400 jobs in July). “These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it,” notes the department of Bureau of Labor Statistics.

See more highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

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 a recent report, conducted by LexisNexis’ legal pricing data service, CounselLink, which revealed that large law firms continue to dominate high-rate work and firm discounting is on the rise as clients reexamine their relationships during the pandemic in 2020. Now in its seventh year, CounselLink’s Trends Report is based on data derived from $35 billion in legal spending comprised of almost seven million invoices and more than 1.7 million matters. According to the report, the country’s largest 50 law firms, which each have more than 750 attorneys, earned 62% of invoice amounts billed last year in three combined categories: mergers and acquisitions; corporate, general and tax; and finance, loans and investments.

Additionally, the report found that partner billing rates for lawyers at the largest 50 firms, which have more than 750 lawyers, are 51% higher than those of partners in firms with 501-750 lawyers. And partner billing rates in firms with 201-500 lawyers are 29% higher than those for partners in firms with 101-200 lawyers. “I don’t think people realize how strong the correlation is between the size of the firm and the rates,” notes Kris Satkunas, Director of Strategic Consulting for CounselLink and author of the Trends Report. “Firms slightly smaller than the “largest firms” category, ones with head counts of 501-750 lawyers, have an opportunity, she added, as clients look for high-quality legal work at a lower cost.”

Five major cities showed rate growth of 4% or more over the last year, and over the last 3 years, the report notes. The biggest growth spurts in attorney rates for the last year were in New York City (6.9%), Boston (5.9%), San Francisco (5.7%), Washington, D.C. (5.2%) and Chicago (4.7%). Each of the five cities saw attorney rates grow at or above 4% in both annual rate growth and compound annual growth rate over the last three years. On the opposite side of the spectrum, three cities saw hourly growth rate below 3% in both metrics: Miami, Minneapolis, and Phoenix.

As clients reexamine relationships with their law firms this year during a recession, Satkunas said the industry may see more discounted bills. And the CounselLink data is bearing that out. The report found a trend of increased discounting in the past few months of 2020, with more than 16% of bills discounted in May, a threshold normally crossed only at the end of the year. However, Satkunas added she was hopeful that more firms will work with clients to adopt alternative fee arrangements, which have grown in popularity in recent years. In 2019, 12.1% of matters were billed with an alternative fee arrangement, up from 9.2% two years ago, and she said there is now an opportunity for firms and clients to be more creative, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See more highlights from the full article 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.

The American Lawyer released their 33rd annual Am Law 100 report, which includes data and rankings for the nation’s 100 highest grossing law firms. Overall, gross revenue grew by 5 percent in 2019, coming in at a record breaking $104 billion. Additionally, net income increased by 4 percent, profit per equity partner grew by 5 percent, and revenue per lawyer rose by 3 percent.

According to the report, forty-two firms posted gross revenue over $1 billion in 2019, four more law firms than in 2018. Additionally, eighty-six firms reported gains in revenue and increased profits per partner in 2019. The results revealed that Kansas-city based Polsinelli reported the greatest increase in average profit per equity partner, up 28.3% from 2018.

Like in 2018, the 10 highest-grossing firms ranked in roughly 26% of the revenue the Am Law 100 generated last year, the report revealed. The next 16 firms accounted for another quarter of the year’s revenue, meaning that half of the revenue generated by the Am Law 100 came from the top 26 law firms. In terms of parity, it was a step forward after the top 10 firms alone brought in 38% of the group’s total revenue just two years ago, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

For the third straight year in a row, Kirkland & Ellis landed the No. 1 spot as the highest grossing law firm in 2019, with $4.154 billion in revenue, up 10.6% from 2018. Latham & Watkins remained in the No. 2 spot, rising 11.3% in total revenue to $3.767 billion. DLA Piper moved up one spot from last year coming in at No. 3 with $3.112 billion. Baker & McKenzie claimed the No. 4 spot, with $2.920 billion in revenue. Skadden Arps retained the No. 5 spot, down 1.5 percent to 2.632 billion in 2019.

See more highlights from The Am Law 100 on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The ABA Journal reports that the legal services sector gained 4,500 jobs in January, with total employment surpassing the previous 10-year high set in November, according to recent data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The legal industry, composed of attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries and others, climbed to 1,160,700 jobs last month. That’s an increase of 16,000 jobs from January 2019, when the legal services sector had 1,144,700 jobs, the report noted.

Additionally, a recent report by Citi Private Bank’s Law Group reported that 2019 was a year of solid growth for the legal industry. The Citi results, based on a sample of 201 firms including members of the Am Law 200 and boutiques, showed thatBig Law net income grew significantly in 2019, driven in part by the strongest billing rate increases since 2008 and stagnation in the number of equity partners. Citi’s quarterly flash report found that over 2019, revenue growth outpaced the increase in expenses at Big Law firms, due in part to a 4.5% increase in billing rates.

Gretta Rusanow, writing for The American Lawyer, adds there were, however, two factors that dampened revenue growth in 2019: a slight drop in realization and a longer collection cycle. We saw continued consolidation and dispersion with the majority of firms (58%) reporting demand growth, but with 42% of firms seeing a demand decline during 2019, it remains a challenging environment for many firms, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

“We believe that 2020 will be another year of growth, albeit more modest than 2019. Demand growth continued to gain momentum in the fourth quarter. Rate growth has been strong. Year-end inventory levels are high, providing a strong basis for first-quarter collections. While we are likely to see continued dispersion driving further market consolidation, we expect average industry revenue growth of 5-6% in 2020, with profits per equity partner growth in the mid-single digits,” Rusanow notes.

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

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 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.