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NLJ Survey Highlights Tough Economic Climate
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The National Law Journal Survey of Law Firm Economics showed staffing ratios at small and mid-sized U.S. law firms in 2009 reached their lowest levels since the 1980’s.

The downward trend in staffing is largely the result of efforts by law firms to lower costs. The survey, based in 2009 data, found the average ratio of associates to partners had decreased by 8.2 percent, the average ratio of paralegals to all lawyers dropped 15.4 percent and the average ratio of support staff to all lawyers decreased by 9.3 percent.

The survey was conducted by ALM Legal Intelligence and also reports on annual financial performance, compensation, billing rates and hours. David Brown, editor in chief of The National Law Journal, said this is the first time in the 38 years of the survey it has shown year-over-year declines in revenue per lawyer, expenses per lawyer and compensation for senior partners.

  
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“This year’s Survey of Law Firm Economics shows just how deeply the recession has affected smaller and midsized law firms around the country,” Brown said.

Among the survey’s other findings:

n  Revenue per lawyer decreased 0.2 percent from $413,086 to $412,220

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n  Expense per lawyer decreased 4.6 percent from $167,256 to $159,521

n  Average billing rates for senior partners increased 3.2 percent from $346 to $357



n  Average 5th year associate billing rate increased 0.5 percent from $218 to $219

n  Average billable hours for senior partners decreased 1.7 percent from 1,656 to 1,628.

n  Average billable hours for 5th year associates increased 0.6 percent from 1,801 to 1,811.

n  Median total compensation for senior partners decreased 1.7 percent from $328,260 to $322,813.

n  For the third year in a row, starting salaries for new graduates remained unchanged at $85,000

The National Law Journal’s Survey of Law Firm Economics is one of the most complete set of economic statistics and financial data available about the legal profession. This year’s survey contains information from 10,913 lawyers including 3,712 associates, 6,236 partners/shareholders (equity and non-equity), 608 active counsels, and 357 staff lawyers working in 187 U.S. law firms.

Summary:

The National Law Journal Survey of Law Firm Economics showed that the staffing ratios at small and mid-sized companies have reached their lowest levels since 1980s in 2009. This downward trend is largely the result of efforts made by law firms to lower costs. David Brown, editor in chief of The National Law Journal, said this is the first time in the 38 years of the survey it has shown year-over-year declines in revenue per lawyer, expenses per lawyer and compensation for senior partners.



 

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