Behold The 2023 Am Law 200 Rankings
Last year wasn't great for Biglaw—but the numbers conceal a lot of variability, with some firms dying and other firms killing it.
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Even though it was extremely late, last week’s write-up of the Vault 100 ranking of the most prestigious law firms in America generated great reader interest. Inspired by that engagement, I’ve decided to belatedly break down another set of law-firm rankings.
I previously analyzed the Am Law 100, the American Lawyer’s highly influential ranking of the nation’s 100 largest law firms, based on revenue. Now I’ll look at what Am Law refers to as the Second Hundred, the #101 to #200 firms by revenue.
How did the Second Hundred perform as a group in 2022? Here are the key metrics, noted by Patrick Smith in his rankings write-up:
Total revenue: $23.7 billion, up 4.1 percent
Revenue per lawyer (RPL): $774,962, up 1.5 percent
Profits per equity partner (PPEP): $959,108, down 1.2 percent
Total headcount: 30,529, up 2.6 percent
The changes are less robust than last year’s for the Second Hundred—increases of 9.1, 7.7, 11.8, and 1.3 percent, respectively—reflecting the cooling of the deal market.
Interestingly enough, the Second Hundred outperformed the Am Law 100 in 2022:
Total gross revenue: $130.8 billion, up by 2.7 percent.
Revenue per lawyer: $1.16 million, down by 1.9 percent.
Profits per equity partner: $2.56 million, down by 3.7 percent.
Total headcount: 112,962, up by 4.7 percent.
As noted by Smith, it’s highly unusual for the Second Hundred to beat out their bigger competitors, but that’s exactly what happened last year. The smaller firms grew their revenue by a larger margin while suffering smaller declines in RPL and PPEP.
How did that happen? Look at the headcount changes: the Am Law 100 increased headcount by 4.7 percent, while the Second Hundred grew by only 2.6 percent. Since compensation constitutes Biglaw’s biggest expense, it seems that the Am Law 100 overhired, not anticipating the big dip in demand later in 2022—which forced many of these firms to conduct layoffs.
And remember, of course, that most Am Law 100 firms participated in the Milbank-led pay raise of January 2022. In contrast, many (but not all) of the Second Hundred firms pay below the Milbank/Cravath scale. So as Marcie Borgal Shunk of The Tilt Institute told Am Law, explaining why the Second Hundred fared better, “They did a good job of protecting their profits. They were measured in their hiring and compensation decisions, more so than the Am Law 100. They were also more thoughtful about associate salary increases.”
Now let’s turn to everyone’s favorite part: analyzing the moves and metrics of individual firms, in terms of total revenue, revenue per lawyer, and profits per partner. Here are the first ten firms in the Second Hundred, i.e., the firms ranked #101 to #110 in gross revenue (for the full list, plus lots of other interesting data, check out the American Lawyer):
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