Annual rankings show a year of solid gains for big law

The American Lawyer's AmLaw 100 has revealed that the nation's 100 top-grossing law firms' total gross revenue rose 4.6 percent, to $81 billion in 2014, according to its annual report available in the May print issue and at The Am Law 100, which is the definitive public ranking of financial performance for the nation's largest law firms, saw notable change at both the top and the bottom of the 2015 list. The Am Law 100 has a new leader in Latham & Watkins this year, while four new firms joined the rankings, displacing four others.

Latham is only the fourth firm to reach the top of The Am Law's gross revenue rankings, which since their inception in 1985 have been dominated by Baker & McKenzie, DLA Piper and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Latham displaced DLA Piper thanks to a more than 14 percent increase in revenue, to $2.6 billion, the most revenue ever accrued by a single Am Law 100 law firm. This year's rankings also saw average revenue per lawyer at the 100 top-grossing law firms increase 3.7 percent, to $871,958, while average profits per partner rose 5.3 percent, to $1.5 million amid a swath of mergers-most notably between Locke Lord and Edwards Wildman Palmer, and Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs.

"With an almost 5 percent rise in total gross revenue, several Big Law mergers and a new firm taking the top spot, 2014 was a remarkable year for many Am Law 100 firms," said Kim Kleman, Editor in Chief of The American Lawyer. "What's more, 2014 showed us that the "Super-rich" firms, with average profits per partner exceeding $2 million are getting richer still and more firms are achieving this status."

The American Lawyer's Am Law 100 edition also provides a deeper dive into this year's results, revealing that some Am Law 100 growth has been superficial. Analysis shows that several firms that saw big increases in revenue are doing so largely as a result of significant increases in attorney head count, while others that saw a rise in per partner profits did so through either a contraction in equity partner numbers or an increase in leverage - or both.

Published: Thu, May 28, 2015