Happy 25th Anniversary (Again) to the Am Law 100
Celebrating a quarter century of our industry-changing survey with another interactive chart.By Michael D. Goldhaber
Many happy couples celebrate two anniversaries. In addition to the day of their wedding banquet, they also mark the day they met or got engaged. The American Lawyer first marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Am Law 100 in May. But the first iteration of our industry-changing survey actually appeared in the magazine's July/August 1987 issue. So why miss the chance for a second party?
Also, having completed this year's Am Law 200 in June, we now know where every firm appearing on both the first and most recent editions of the list ranked then and now on every key metric (and lots more besides). Ever wonder which firm fell the furthest in terms of profits per partner over the past quarter century? Curious about which rose highest in revenue per lawyer on a percentage basis? We've got the answers.
To capture some of that data, we've created the chart below, which plots the change in revenue rank against the change in revenue-per-lawyer rank for all 80 firms that appeared on the original Am Law 100 and exist in some form on the current Am Law 200. (As readers of this space may have heard, we lost one earlier this year).
To a significant degree, a firm's gain or loss in RPL rank depends on its growth strategy. The "double losers" category (and all decline here is relative) is dominated by regional firms. The quadrant with "revenue gainers/RPL losers" features an honor roll of the Am Law 100 firms most determined to go global. The typical "revenue loser/RPL gainer" is a successful boutique. But pride of place goes to the "double winners"those that have mastered the art of disciplined growth.
Having a fuller data set available allows us to play a new parlor game: tracking firms that diverge over time. Consider Boston's Ropes & Gray. It began 1987 a notch below Kutak Rock in revenue, a shade below Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in revenue per lawyer, and a tick below Dorsey & Whitney in profits per partner. Now Ropes places 125 revenue ranks ahead of Kutak, 26 RPL ranks ahead of Orrick, and 120 profit ranks in front of Dorsey. Who said Boston Brahmins are staid?
Moving sharply the other way, Kelley, Drye & Warren started its journey a notch above Hogan & Hartson in revenue, tied with Paul Hastings in revenue per lawyer, and a tick above Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in profits per partner. Now Kelley lags Hogan (now Hogan Lovells) by 123 revenue ranks, trails Paul Hastings by 64 RPL ranks, and languishes 61 profits ranks below Cadwalader. Sometimes it can be painful to look back at the wedding album.
Of course, even this chart can't capture Kutak's camaraderie or Kelley's client service. As the wisest partners at the Am Law 100's biggest gainers and losers agree, financial metrics don't measure everything worth measuring.Michael D. Goldhaber
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