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April 28, 2011 5:45 PM

The Am Law 100 2011: Growth Returns

Posted by Chris Johnson

From the May 2011 Issue of The American Lawyer

You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief that spread across Am Law 100 boardrooms as this year's numbers were collated. After enduring two years of falling workloads, most firms made a welcome return to positive top-line growth in 2010. After contracting 3.4 percent in 2009, when more than $2 billion was wiped from aggregate Am Law 100 revenues, gross revenue rose by 4 percent last year.

About 60 percent of Am Law 100 firms increased revenue in 2010, and the picture in revenue per lawyer (RPL) is even brighter: More than 80 percent of firms saw improvements from the previous year. But the growth was small: While cost cutting allowed many firms to achieve impressive increases in profits per partner [see "The Profits Picture"], big revenue gains were harder to come by. Just eight firms managed double-digit gross revenue growth in 2010.

At the top of the list is Los Angeles's Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. The business litigation powerhouse ­increased its top line by 31 percent--11 percentage points higher than any other firm in The Am Law 100. The firm's revenue hit an all-time high of $550.5 million in 2010, and has now grown 85 percent since fiscal year 2006. Quinn's RPL was also up, growing 14 percent to $1.205 million--The Am Law 100's sixth-highest gain, and beaten in absolute terms only by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz ($2.29 million); Sullivan & Cromwell ($1.44 million); and Boies, Schiller & Flexner ($1.265 million).

Quinn Emanuel name partner William Urquhart says that "2010 was our best ever year financially--increasing your revenue by 30 percent is not something that happens all that often." Urquhart attributes much of the growth to Quinn's intellectual property practice--the firm's largest department, accounting for 40 percent of total revenue--which Urquhart says is "on fire." The team has been busy representing Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc., and Google Inc. in the smartphone patent wars, and last year was boosted by the launch of a patent litigation–focused office in Mannheim, Germany.

Cahill Gordon & Reindel also had an excellent year. The Wall Street firm fell out of The Am Law 100 in 2008 but has since recovered strongly, posting record numbers [see "A New Shuffle,"]. Revenue was up 20 percent in 2010--second only to Quinn in terms of growth. The firm also managed the fifth-greatest increase in RPL, which leaped 15.6 percent, to $1.185 million. Cahill chairman William Hartnett says that demand was up across the board, with corporate finance--including high-yield and leveraged finance--particularly strong.

At the other end of the spectrum, Dechert; Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner; and Schulte Roth & Zabel all continued to find life challenging in 2010. Dechert, where gross revenue fell 9 percent, to a five-year low of $648.5 million, had the biggest drop. It was the firm's third consecutive year of declines in gross revenue. (Dechert's drop in gross revenue was almost identical to its 8.9 percent drop in head count, so the firm's RPL was flat at $860,000.)

The worst performer in RPL was Finnegan, which suffered a 10.1 percent slide, to $845,000. It also had  the second-greatest dip in revenue--down 8.7 percent, to $318.5 million. The firm did not respond to  The American Lawyer's request for comment.

Am_law_100_vs_fortune_500

•To access the complete report, including all charts and feature stories, go to: www.americanlawyer.com/amlaw100.

 

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