25 Years of The Am Law 100

The American Lawyer

In the quarter-century since The American Lawyer began tracking the nation's 100 largest law firms, total gross revenue for that cohort has multiplied more than tenfold, from $7 billion to $71 billion. In nominal terms the average Am Law 100 PPP has more than quadrupled, from $324,500 to about $1.4 million. Providing fodder to those who see a widening class divide, the average Am Law 100 partner earned 11.3 times the average American employee's compensation in 1986, and 23.4 times that benchmark in 2010, the last year for which data is available. 

Much has changed in the surrounding culture since The Am Law 100 was introduced, but when our story begins, the basic dynamics of the law firm business were already in place. In 1986 (our financial base year), L.A. Law went on the air, and Cravath, Swaine & Moore raised starting salaries from $53,000 to $65,000. In 1987 (when the Am Law 100 survey was first published), Scott Turow wrote Presumed Innocent, and Baker & McKenzie was nearing the 1,000-lawyer mark. The top firms were big and rich, and rapidly getting bigger and richer. A twenty-fifth anniversary look at where The Am Law 100 started, where it is today, and what happened along the way.



Complete coverage :: The Am Law 100

THE FEATURES

The Long Run After a quarter-century, 69 of 1987's Am Law 100 firms are still on the list. But that's not to say that nothing's changed.Chart: Tracking Feverish Growth Rapid growth has been a central theme in the 25-year history of the Am Law 100.
Myth Busters What 25 years of Am Law 100 revenue data reveals about the value of countercyclical practices, the need to be in New York, and more.Chart: How the Top Firms Revved Up A look at revenue growth at the largest grossing law firms.
Ralph...Has Left the Building Orrick's iconoclastic leader—who is known as much for his failed merger attempts as for his vision—prepares to step down.
A Concise History of The Am Law 100 An interactive timeline spanning the 25 years of our annual report on law firm finances.
AUDIO: Steven Brill, in his own words.
Nuclear ReactionThe founder of The American Lawyer discusses the aftermath of publishing of the inaugural Am Law ranking of law firm economics.

Creation Story Brill recalls what inspired him to launch The American Lawyer. 
 
 INFOGRAPHIC: Click here for an interactive chart plotting change in revenue and profits at Am law 100 firms since 1987.