The American Lawyer released the top 100 of its annual law firm rankings today, April 28. The rankings are based each year on gross revenues, however there are other metrics to consider as well, including: profits per partner, revenue per lawyer, ranking from the prior year, and how these metrics are changing on a year-to-year basis. Below is a snapshot of this year’s top 20 firms, along with various other notable firms with offices in Charlotte or elsewhere in the Carolinas:
Taken together, we see that the majority of firms gained in gross revenues, profits per partner, and revenue per lawyer—suggesting a positive overall year for firms at the top. As an example, 14 of the top 20 firms (and 18 of the 33 shown in the chart above) gained in all 3 areas. We also see that some firms had a mixed bag, while a number of others struggled—with 4 of the top 20 firms (and 8 of the 33 shown) experiencing a decline in 2 or more of key metric areas.

Below is a breakdown of further trends observed from the rankings:

Biggest Gains in Gross Revenue: Polsinelli (+17.8%), Williams & Connolly (+15.0%), Simpson Thacher (+14.9%), Quinn Emanuel (+14.1%), Barnes & Thornburg (+11.9%), Fragomen (+11.7%), Cahill (+10.9%), Ogletree (+10.2%), K&L Gates (+9.3%), Cooley (+9.2%), Shearman & Sterling (+9.1%), Venable (+8.9%)

Biggest Losses in Gross Revenue: Bingham McCutchen (-12.6%), O’Melveny (-10.4%), Fish (-9.6%), Edwards Wildman (-9.4%), Finnegan (-9.1%), Jenner & Block (-7.7%), Weil (-7.4%), Arnold & Porter (-6.2%), Nixon Peabody (-5.6%), Kaye Scholer (-5.0%), Kilpatrick Townsend (-4.4%), Locke Lord (-3.2%)

Biggest Gains in Profits Per Partner: Fried Frank (+24.3%), Davis Polk (+22.5%), Akin Gump (+19.2%), Simpson Thacher (+18.8%), Shearman & Sterling (+18.4%), Vinson & Elkins (+16.3%), Williams & Connolly (+15.1%), Hughes Hubbard (+12.7%), Polsinelli (+12.3%), Mayer Brown (+11.7%), Debevoise (+11.3%)

Biggest Losses in Profits Per Partner: Kilpatrick Townsend (-18.6%), Jenner & Block (-17.1%), O’Melveny (-16.0%), Finnegan (-14.7%), Bingham McCutchen (-12.7%), Locke Lord (-12.2%), Fish (-12.1%), Bracewell (-11.0%), Covington (-8.7%), Nixon Peabody (-8.4%), K&L Gates (-7.8%), Steptoe (-7.7%)

Overall Trends for the Industry:

  • Many firms saw little to no revenue growth, yet the top 20 separated themselves
  • Firms relied on nonequity partners to boost numbers, but it may not be sustainable
  • With the bankruptcy boom over, Bingham and Weil need to redefine themselves
  • 5 firms are over $2B in revenue, 23 over $1B, including “new” Norton Rose, Dentons
  • Profits per partner increased by 0.2% in 2013, leveling off after a 4.2% jump in 2012
  • Average revenue per lawyer fell in 2013, marking the first decline since 2009
  • Partner compensation fell 0.3%, mirroring flat growth in other metrics (PPP, RPL)
  • Wachtell leads all in profits per partner and for a 10th straight year in value per lawyer

Overall Trends for Individual Firms:

  • King & Spalding eclipsed $2M in profits per partner for the first time
  • Shook Hardy fell out of the rankings after 17 years as a mainstay of the top 100
  • Mayer Brown reported its highest profits, even after New Republic’s negative press
  • Akin Gump saw its key metrics rise following a firmwide focus on lateral integration
  • After a record year, O’Melveny saw a decline in metrics due to fewer success fees
  • Jenner & Block was hit hard by government spending cutbacks, driving down PPP
  • Davis Polk has a big year following major litigation and transactional successes
  • Fried Frank made their biggest jump in profits per partner following a tough year prior