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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.

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.

In a recent article, The American Lawyer takes a deep dive look at the strategies and practices of a small group of firms that have delivered year-over-year growth since the Great Recession. According to ALM Intelligence data, only 27 of the 100 firms on the Am Law rankings have had year-over-year growth in revenue since the 2009 fiscal year. To understand how a select group of firms turned the recession into an opportunity to thrive, not just survive, The American Lawyer spoke with a group of leaders who played a pivotal role in reimagining their firms’ trajectories.

So, what characteristics do these law firms have in common? Janet Stanton of law firm consultancy Adam Smith, Esq. elaborates on the subject, noting “They tend to operate in a more business-like way, which means a focus on profitability, intentional planning, strategic intake and succession planning for leadership roles and client management. From the 1980s to 2008, law land didn’t have to do any of these things, so these firms that are pulling away changed their strategy, notes Stanton. These firms have been able to get it right for nearly a decade, and each had to develop a unique strategy to make it happen,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

According to the article, the law firms that have delivered year-over-year growth since the 2009 fiscal year include: Akin Gump; Baker & Hostetler; Barnes & Thornburg; Cooley; Davis Polk; Duane Morris; Fox Rothschild; Fragomen; Gibson Dunn; Goodwin Procter; Holland & Knight; Jackson Lewis; King & Spalding; Kirkland & Ellis; Latham & Watkins; McGuireWoods; Milbank; Morgan Lewis; Ogletree Deakins; Paul Weiss; Perkins Coie; Polsinelli; Proskauer Rose; Ropes & Gray; Sheppard Mullin; Simpson Thacher; and Williams & Connolly.

See highlights from the full article 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 U.S. legal industry climbed to 1,142,700 jobs last month, returning to last year’s highwater mark set in October, according to recent data released by The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics on Law360. Professional and business services, which includes the legal sector, showed stronger gains, adding 42,000 jobs last month, in line with the average monthly gains for those services over the past 12 months, the report said.

In addition, some other recent reports indicate that the legal industry as a whole is performing well financially. One report, released in late January by Wells Fargo Private Bank’s legal specialty group, in a check-in on 2018’s year-end results found the strongest annual performance among law firms in a decade, with firms reporting average revenue growth of 5.9 percent and average net income growth of 7.6 percent.

That was consistent with another report published in December by Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group and Hildebrandt Consulting, which found that last year was the U.S. legal industry’s best for financial growth in nearly 10 years, Law360 reports. According to the report, law firm revenues during the first nine months of 2018 grew by 6.3 percent on average, due to increases in billing rates and, to a lesser degree, demand growth.

The Citi report was generally optimistic about the industry’s outlook for 2019, predicting that law firms will become more adept at using technology, project management and alternative pricing to become more efficient. It also predicted an uptick in equity partner retirements, putting the onus on firms to invest more time and energy into client transitioning.

“We are optimistic about 2019 and do not anticipate a downturn in the industry. When the inevitable downturn does occur, the biggest expense management opportunity for firms will be to study whether the composition of their leverage models makes sense from a profitability standpoint,” Brad Hildebrandt, chairman of Hildebrandt Consulting, said in a statement at the time the report was released. “That said, experience tells us that law firms are typically quick to recover from economic downturns, so long as their internal fundamentals are sound,” (as quoted in Law360).

See highlights from the full article on Law360.

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.