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AM Law Releases Top 100 Law Firms for 2013
The American Lawyer released their rankings of the highest grossing law firms in the United States, known at the AM Law 100, for 2013. The list ranks the country’s largest law firms by their gross revenue, and continues to be an important barometer for the overall health of the legal market. For the first time in the history of the rankings, the number one spot did not go to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom or Baker & Mackenzie which are the usual firms that take that spot. Instead, the number one spot went to DLA Piper.
DLA Piper, which was ranked at number 2 on last year’s list, overtook top-of-the-list mainstay Baker & McKenzie. DLA brought in $2,440,500,000 in gross revenues, an 8.6% growth from 2011. Baker & McKenzie brought in a comparable $2,313,000,000 in gross revenue, which is only a 2.1% increase from 2011. Interestingly, Skadden, another AM Law list-topping firm, had a 2.1% increase in gross revenue from 2011 as well, bringing in $2,210,000,000. Skadden fell in the rankings from third to fourth place. Latham & Watkins rose in the rankings from fourth to third, with a 3.4% increase in their gross revenue to the tune of $2,226,000,000 in 2012.
The listing of DLA Piper as the law firm with the highest revenue is controversial, as the firm is classified as a Swiss verein, which means that it is an association of independent member organizations, rather than a traditionally defined law firm. Baker & McKenzie is also a verein, as is Hogan Lovells, which is ranked at number 7 with $1,633,000,000 in gross revenue. DLA and Baker & McKenzie both have more than 4,000 attorneys in their employ, nearly twice the number of lawyers as the largest non-verein firm included in the list, Latham.
In what should be taken as a good sign for the current legal market, all of the biggest shifts on the list were improvements in the rankings. (While many firms fell on the list, few fell more than two or three places.) The biggest upward movement in the rankings came from Bryan Cave, which moved up nine spots from 55 to 46. Quinn Emmanuel jumped up 8 spots from 36 to 28, Arnold & Porter moved up seven spots from 44 to 37, and Paul Weiss moved up five, from 30 to 25.
The most significant drop came from Hunton & Williams, which fell from 49 to 56, with a -5.6% loss in revenues. However, this statistic was asterixed by AM Law because this firm’s fiscal year closed after the rankings were made, and the firm’s annual gross revenue was projected by AM Law.
In other significant moves in the rankings, both Bracewell & Giuliani and Ogletree Deakins moved into the AM Law 100 List, ranking at 92 and 97 respectively.
The AM Law 100 list is a relatively positive snapshot of the current climate for the country’s largest law firms. The majority of the firms showed positive growth in 2011, and what decreases there are within the top 100 seem comparatively minor percentages. This data supports the conclusion drawn by many in the industry that, after several very bad years for the legal market, business is returning to law firms and the legal market is ready to grow again.