Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Growth Rate at Largest Law Firms Slows, Survey Finds
By DON PARRET, Staff Writer
The nation’s largest law firms continued to grow this year but the total number of attorneys employed by those firms increased by only 3.7 percent, according to a new study.
The National Law Journal survey results released Monday said the 250 firms polled in the study had an average increase in the number of attorneys that was less than half of last year’s rate — the lowest amount measured since 1995.
The National Law Journal cited a variety of factors limiting expansion, including continued mergers and acquisitions, as well as selective hiring.
Chicago’s Baker & McKenzie—which now has more than 1,000 partners—remained the largest firm in the U.S. for the 25th consecutive year of the legal paper’s study.
Baker & McKenzie has grown from 434 lawyers to more than 3,200, while the smallest firm on the list has grown from just more than 50 lawyers in 1978 to more than 150 today.
“Even in bad economic times, law firms continue to expand, albeit at a slower pace,” National Law Journal editor Charles Carter said. “As a result, the average law firm of the [survey] has grown from just 104 lawyer to more than 430 in the 25 years we have measured the industry.”
The paper also found in the survey that:
•West Coast firms took some of the biggest downsizing hits last year. San Francisco’s Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison lost 232 lawyers (26 percent), while Pillsbury Winthrop, also from San Francisco, shed 152 lawyers (17 percent).
•Eight of the 10 fastest-growing firms grew through mergers or acquisitions. A total of 45 mergers were completed during this year’s survey period.
•Twelve firms now employ more than 1,000 lawyers — two more than ever before.
•The number of lawyers working abroad continued to surge. It was up 12.8 percent this year, on top of 22.7 percent growth last year, as U.S. firms continued to look overseas for revenue growth.
•Overall, the number of associates employed at the 250 firms of the study inched up only 2.1 percent this year, compared to 9.3 percent last year and 14.5 percent in 2000.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company