Who is the Godzilla of law firms?

A few weeks from now — in October, to be more precise — the American Lawyer will announce the Global 100. This is Am Law’s list of the world’s 100 largest law firms, ranked by total revenue.

As a teaser of sorts, the magazine just revealed which firm will sit atop the 2012 rankings. Can you guess which one?

No surprises here: the world’s biggest firm, in terms of revenue, is Baker & McKenzie. It was #1 in 2011 and #1 in 2010, so its first-place finish shouldn’t come as a surprise.

What does it take to be number one? More than $2 billion in annual revenue, as explained by Am Law Daily:

Baker & McKenzie has retained its position as the world’s largest law firm by revenue after posting record billings for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012. Baker’s gross revenue inched up 2 percent over the past 12 months to a new high of $2.313 billion, the firm announced Tuesday, extending its lead over second-placed DLA Piper to $66 million. (The results are for different time frames, since DLA operates under a calendar fiscal year.)

Yes, DLA has to adjust its calendar because the DLA Martian Outpost takes about 660 Earth days to complete a fiscal year. Still, DLA overtook Skadden (which was last year’s #2 firm).

What did Baker cook up in terms of profitability? The numbers were less than piping hot. Profit per partner fell by 9 percent, to just shy of $1.1 million — a three-year low, according to Am Law.

But considering the state of the global economy in which Baker operates, these results aren’t bad. Here’s what the firm had to say about its results:

“Our results reflect our return to investments that were deferred during the recent crisis years as well as the challenging circumstances confronting our clients in an uncertain global economy,” said Eduardo C. Leite, chairman of Baker & McKenzie’s Executive Committee. “We continue to see clients act on impressive strategic transactions and financings, but with more caution and financial discipline.

“Matching our legal talent and services with the needs and demands of our global clients has never been more important,” Leite added. “That’s why we continue to build our global platform for the long term in new markets and through strategic lateral hiring, while stepping up our focus on operating efficiencies.”

Focusing on “operating efficiencies” in an “uncertain global economy” involves making cuts, of course. As you may recall, earlier this year Baker closed its San Diego office.

But the closing seems to be more than offset by Baker’s expansionary moves. The firm recently launched new offices in South Africa and Morocco. And it’s considering additional locations:

Baker’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa chair Koen Vanhaerents says the firm is now looking at Maghreb — a region of northwest Africa that includes Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia — to further expand its coverage of the continent.

Because Baker loves being in places that 99 percent of Americans have never heard of. At least they can get there before DLA Piper (which has a presence in Zagreb, but not Maghreb). Baker exists in almost as many places as DLA — Baker McKenzie, that is, not actual bakers (who have offices in far fewer cities than either of these two giant firms).

Congratulations to Baker & McKenzie on once again topping the Global 100. Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but being able to provide gainful employment to thousands of lawyers and staffers is no small feat.

Baker & McKenzie Retains Global Top Spot With Record Revenues [Am Law Daily]
Baker & McKenzie Announces Record Global Fee Income [Baker & McKenzie (press release) via ABA Journal]

Earlier: The Biggest Law Firms in the World: Meet the Global 100
The Biggest of Biglaw: Greet the Global 100


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