For all the talk of layoffs and worries over an unstable legal economy, Biglaw just keeps getting bigger. Today, the American Lawyer magazine announced its Global 100, a ranking of the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue. The view from the top is simple: as we learned from the 2013 Am Law 100, slow and steady does win the race, because Biglaw is at the biggest it’s been in years, and partners’ profits are headed up, up, up.
Now that we’re on the long road to recovery following the recession and collapse of the U.S. financial markets, there are some lessons to be learned from the past five years. Some firms were able to cash in modestly on their success, while other firms buckled under the pressure and were forced to close their doors for good. The game of musical chairs in the top 10 of the Global 100 reflects this economic uncertainty.
DLA Piper is the new top dog in terms of total revenue. Which firms are the leaders of the pack in other metrics, such as profits per partner and attorney headcount?
We’ll begin with the revenue figures. Thanks to this record-high revenue growth, it seems like models and bottles may soon be flowing freely at the top 10 firms. Here’s the good news, courtesy of Am Law:
Combined gross revenue for The Global 100 grew by 3.8 percent in 2012 to a record high of $85 billion. This year 77 of the world’s top-grossing firms are American and 13 are British. Rounding out this year’s list are five Australian firms and one firm each from Canada, China, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Eight firms are structured as vereins or as European Economic Interest Groups (EEIGs).
For the first time in the history of Am Law’s global rankings, DLA Piper rose to the top, with $2.44 billion in gross revenue, barely displacing Baker & McKenzie. Unlike last year, where the top 10 remained largely unchanged, this year saw some dramatic movement, with one firm being bumped off the list entirely (alas, Am Law’s got no love for Ho-Love). The biggest move came from Kirkland & Ellis, which posted an increase of $187,500,000 in revenue, allowing the firm to jump from ninth place to sixth place in the top 10 ranking.
Next up, we’ve got every prestige whore’s favorite metric: profits per partner…