The 2016 Am Law 100: Growth Slows for Big Law

The American Lawyer

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The nation's top-grossing firms saw only mediocre gains across key financial metrics last year, marking the slowest growth since the Great Recession. The numbers reflected a leveling off of demand for legal services and global uncertainty in core markets, among other challenges. Consolidation continued to remake The Am Law 100, with several firms leapfrogging in the rankings after mergers or acquisitions. And despite the so-so financial performance overall, some firms had a stunning year.


Previous Am Law 100 coverage :: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

FEATURES & ANALYSIS

The Am Law 100 eked out gains across major financial metrics in 2015. But growth was the slowest in years.
 
How well firms did often depended on where they chose to compete. An on-the-ground look at conditions in New York, Pennsylvania, Chicago, California and London.
 
K&L Gates has expanded well beyond its Pittsburgh roots. The firm says it's on the verge of greatness. Others disagree.
 
The data we collect on law firm finances make for some interesting comparisons.
 
 
Key metrics are up at Am Law 100 firms, but growth has slowed.
 
 
FIRMS OF NOTE
Key metrics fell for the second straight year, but the firm says it's laying the groundwork for growth.
 
A slowdown in intellectual property work? Don't tell it to Fish & Richardson.
 
Diversification has helped Baker Botts rise above an oil and gas slowdown.
 
Under a new chair, the firm cut costs and made steep gains in key metrics.
 
After two down years, sizeable advances helped Wilmer surpass competitors in the D.C. market.
 
The commodities slump and expansion costs put pressure on Reed Smith.
 
The firm is the first in Atlanta to cross the billion-dollar gross revenue milestone.
 
After declines in 2014, O'Melveny & Myers reversed course with strong results in 2015.
 
A new business plan and reduced head count helped fuel a turnaround at Steptoe & Johnson.
 
 

THE CHARTS

The Am Law 100: Firms Ranked By Gross Revenue
For the second year in a row, Latham & Watkins holds the top position in our gross revenue rankings. DLA Piper is in second place, switching positions with Baker & McKenzie, which is in third. Twenty-seven firms posted gross revenue of $1 billion or more in 2015, the same number as in 2014. Seventy-eight firms had gains in gross revenue.
 
 
 
INTERACTIVE
 
Charting Growth
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz registered the highest combined year-over-year growth rates for revenue per lawyer and profits per partner, while several firms experienced slowdowns on both counts.
 
 

Profits Per Partner
For The Am Law 100 as a whole, average profits per partner rose by 4 percent in 2015, falling short of 2014’s increase of 5.3 percent. Wachtell became the first firm to top $6 million in profits per partner, with an average PPP of $6.6 million.
 
Revenue Per Lawyer
The metric that we’ve long regarded as the most reliable measure of a firm’s financial health increased by 2.6 percent at Am Law 100 firms in 2015, lower than the 3.7 percent increase recorded in 2014.
 
Value Per Lawyer
On average, value per lawyer for The Am Law 100 increased by 3.3 percent, lower than 2014’s rise of 6.2 percent.
 
Compensation—All Partners
Average compensation-all partners increased by 3.7 percent in 2015, down slightly from a 4 percent rise in 2014.
 
This metric, introduced in 1985, seeks to demonstrate which firms best balance leverage and profit margin for the highest possible profits per partner.
 
Introduced last year, this metric is an alternate way of looking at firm profitability and is intended to reduce the influence of factors such as leverage.
 
Methodology
How we report law firm financials.
 

SEE ALSO:
Firm-by-firm snapshots based on ALM's preliminary reporting on Am Law 100 financials.
 
Despite a record-breaking year for big-ticket M&A work, the most profitable New York-based firms saw much slower earnings and turnover growth on average in 2015.
 
 
 
 

 

 

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