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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 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.

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 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 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 released their 32nd annual Am Law 100 report, which includes data and rankings for the nation’s 100 highest grossing law firms. Overall, gross revenue grew by 8 percent in 2018, coming in at a record breaking $98.7 billion. Additionally, net income increased by 7.8 percent, profit per equity partner grew by 6.5 percent, revenue per lawyer moved up 4.2 percent, and total attorney headcount rose 3.6 percent.

According to the report, thirty-seven firms posted gross revenue over $1 billion in 2018, six more law firms than in 2017. Additionally, ninety-three firms reported gains in revenue, up from 85 firms last year. For 2018, the top 10 firms accounted for 26 percent of the Am Law 100’s total revenue. The next 17 firms accounted for the next 25 percent of revenue. Firms No. 28 thru 53 accounted for another quarter of the revenue, and the final 47 firms generated the remaining 24 percent of the total Am Law 100 firms, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

For the second straight year, Kirkland & Ellis landed the No. 1 spot as the highest grossing law firm in 2018, with $3.757 billion in revenue, up 18.7% from 2017. Latham & Watkins remained in the No. 2 spot, rising 10.5% in total revenue to $3.386 billion. Baker & McKenzie retained the No. 3 spot, with $2.900 billion in revenue. DLA Piper remained in its respective spot from last year coming in at No. 4 with $2.836 billion. Skadden Arps claimed the No. 5 spot, up 3.5 percent to 2.673 billion in 2018.

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

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports that law firm profitability is at a record high, according to a recent report released by ALM Intelligence. The report revealed that the average equity partner, at an Am Law 200 firm, received $1.8 million in profit sharing compensation last year. This is higher than any point in recorded history (the Am Law 200 data goes back to 1984). In addition, average profits per equity partner are nearly $500k dollars more, in nominal terms, than they were at the peak in profitability experienced before the past downturn. Even after adjusting for inflation, profits per equity partner are $125k per year more than they were a decade ago.

Given the myriad of obstacles law firms are currently facing, this raises an obvious question — how are law firms doing it? Director at ALM Legal Intelligence, Nicholas Bruch investigates, positing that there are four ways to increase firm wide profitability. The most straightforward path is to focus on increasing revenue per lawyer, notes Bruch. This can be achieved in several ways. Firms can increase worked hours by, for example, increasing hourly targets on associates. They can also increase utilization rates or realization rates. While these “levers” can boost a firm’s revenue per lawyer the most potent lever is rate increases. Increasing prices – which most often means increasing hourly rates – is the most rapid and straightforward path to increasing revenue per lawyer, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

The next, most obvious, path to higher PPEP is to reduce costs. Again, there are multiple ways to accomplish this goal. According to Bruch, firms can reduce salary costs. This can be accomplished by cutting salaries or, more realistically, by shifting work to lower cost resources – either less skilled individuals or individuals who are based in lower cost locations. While these strategies have been pursued by some firms, Bruch notes that the more common route to lower costs has been to reduce both direct and indirect expenses, or more broadly speaking, “overhead”. Bruch adds that the last two paths to boost a firm’s profits per equity partner are to increase the firms’ leverage by either hiring more associates or by shifting the structure of the partnership to include more non-equity partners and fewer equity partners, (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 released their 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 for the Global 100 grew by 6.4 percent to $105.7 billion, and profits per equity partner among Global 100 firms increased, on average, by 3.4 percent. Attorney headcount also saw an increase this year, with an annual growth of 10.7 percent.

For the third time in the history of Am Law’s global ranking, U.S.-based firms occupied the top five spots. Kirkland & Ellis advanced two spots this year to claim the No. 1 spot, knocking Latham & Watkins and Baker & McKenzie down to spots 2 and 3, respectively. Kirkland and Latham both cracked $3 billion in total revenue for the first time in 2017. But while Latham posted a commendable 8 percent increase in revenue, Kirkland’s grew at a whopping 18 percent, more than any other American firm. DLA Piper and Skadden Arps remained in their respective spots from last year, coming in at number 4 and number 5.

Another takeaway for all these firms—and those on the outside looking in—is the gap between total revenue growth and PEP. Even with plenty of money coming in, costs are growing across the world. That, according to former Clifford Chance managing partner Tony Williams, is causing firms to “look much more carefully at who becomes an equity partner and who stays one.” Those elite American firms, consolidating their hold on the top of the list, are already doing this. Now it’s up to those who wish to be in their position to follow suit, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.