NEW YORK–Nov. 15, 2004 – LAWFUEL – Law firm, legal, attorney news –The National Law Journal(R) reported today that the NLJ 250(R), the nation’s 250 largest law firms, eked out minimal growth last year. Attorney head count at these firms inched up by just 1.5%, compared with last year’s 1.6%–the lowest rate of increase since 1994. At the same time, the number of associates dipped by 3.5%, only the third time in 27 years that associate staffing dropped in consecutive years. The newspaper’s annual NLJ 250 survey has ranked law firms by total number of attorneys since 1978. This year’s survey results, covering a 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2004, headline the November 15th issue of The National Law Journal, available today, and are also online at www.nlj.com and www.law.com.
Law firm Baker & McKenzie ranked first again, but for the first time, it lost attorneys in consecutive years. The firm still employs 3,194 lawyers, almost 1,000 more than Jones Day, which remained in second place. The only new entry in the thousand-lawyer club resulted from the year’s major merger. Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering of Washington (55th last year), tied the knot with Hale and Dorr of Boston (71st last year), with the combined firm rising to rank 12th on this year’s listing.
New York IP firm Fish & Neave, which announced last week that it is being acquired by Boston’s Ropes & Gray, dropped from 196th to 245th on the list, losing 31 of its 196 lawyers, including nine partners.
Among the other trends reported by the survey:
— The number of non-equity partners (partners who do not share in firm profits) continued to increase twice as fast as the number of equity partners.
— Use of temporary and contract lawyers appears to be growing significantly.
— The number of NLJ 250 lawyers working abroad continues to expand, but at a slower pace, down from the double-digit growth rates seen a few years ago, to just 3.3% last year.
Nearly half of the firms that responded to the law schools and hiring section of the survey listed Georgetown University Law Center as a law school source for their 2004 class of first-year associates–easily making
Georgetown the most-mentioned of nearly 200 law schools. The University of Virginia and Harvard law schools were the next most-mentioned schools.
“The nation’s largest law firms continue to mirror the overall economy and are still digesting the heavy hiring they did during their rapid growth in the 1990’s and 2000,” said Rex Bossert, editor in chief of The NLJ. “For now, firms are clearly managing their businesses by the numbers, with a focus on growing revenues and profits, rather than headcount.”
NLJ 250 data is also available for sale as an electronic spreadsheet. It can be purchased online at www.lawcatalog.com or by contacting Charles Lowry of ALM Research at 212-592-4932 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Founded in 1978, The National Law Journal has the largest paid circulation of any weekly publication serving the legal community. The newspaper is published by American Lawyer Media, Inc. (ALM).
Headquartered in New York City, ALM is a leading integrated media company, focused on the legal industry. ALM currently owns and publishes 35 national and regional legal magazines and newspapers, including The American Lawyer(R) and The National Law Journal. ALM’s Law.com(R) is the Web’s leading legal news and information network. ALM’s other businesses include book and newsletter publishing, court verdict and settlement reporting, market research, production of legal trade shows, conferences and educational seminars and distribution of content related to the legal industry. ALM was formed by U.S. Equity Partners, L.P., a private equity fund sponsored by Wasserstein & Co., LP. More information on ALM, its business and services is available on the Web at www.americanlawyermedia.com.
Peters & Feldman for ALM
Lee Feldman, 401-848-5494