The Top 20 Most Profitable Law Firms (2022)
Wachtell Lipton has been dethroned—and you can probably guess the new #1 firm in profits per equity partner.
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If I had to pick a word to describe 2022 for Biglaw, I’d go with “transitional.” Think of last year as a bridge connecting the boom times of 2021 with… whatever 2023 ends up being, but it’s probably not going to be good.
To get an idea of what the future might hold, let’s look back at the past—specifically, how the year 2022 went for Biglaw, as reflected in the 2023 Am Law 100 rankings. Collectively, the nation’s 100 largest law firms by revenue turned in a mixed performance:
Total gross revenue: $130.8 billion, up by 2.7 percent.
Average revenue per lawyer: $1.16 million, down by 1.9 percent.
Profits per equity partner: $2.56 million, down by 3.7 percent.
As I discussed with my co-host Zach Sandberg when we previously dissected the new Am Law 100 rankings on Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers, it’s unusual to see these three key indicators pointing in different directions. In recent years, they’ve all gone in the same direction, and that direction was up:
As noted in Lateral Link’s write-up of the rankings, an increase in gross revenue coupled with a decrease in revenue per lawyer meant that total headcount increased in 2022. The total number of lawyers working in the Am Law 100 increased by 4.7 percent, to 112,962. The number of equity partners grew by 1 percent, while the number of nonequity partners grew by 6.4 percent.
The dips in revenue per lawyer and profits per equity partner might make 2022 something of a disappointment, at least compared to the past few years—but it’s hard to be too disappointed. As noted by Patrick Smith in his analysis of the Am Law 100 for the American Lawyer, for many firms it was their second-best year ever, falling short only compared to 2021—an insanely busy, aberrational year for the transactional work that drives Biglaw profitability. Some firms might have thought the glory days were going to last longer than they did—and many of these firms are now in the process of retrenching, having overhired in 2021 and early 2022—but it was never realistic to have expected the party to go on forever.
That should suffice in terms of macro-level observations about Biglaw’s financial performance in 2022. Let’s dig into the crucial metrics—gross revenue, revenue per lawyer, profits per equity partner—and the top 20 firms in each.
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