Bigly Expansion & Decline: Big Law Market Share By The Numbers

By the numbers, which big law firm has gained the most revenue since the recession?

We decided to take a look at the largest 100 U.S. law firms and compile a data set from archived records of financial rankings in The American Lawyer.

It was a fairly simple, but time-intensive process, which entailed taking the 2007 list of the largest U.S. law firms ranked by revenue, and comparing it with the most recent 2016 list.

For this article, we only focused on revenue, reflecting the sheer market share of business a firm brings in, and not how rich that ends up making partners after the money is divvied. We’ll save the profit analysis for another day.

One thing that surprised us was the enormous disparity between firms: Some have truly experienced stunning revenue expansion while others have stagnated or even declined.

It should go without saying that revenue isn’t everything when it comes to measuring a firm’s financial picture.

Smaller firms like Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (with 261 lawyers in 2015) have far less revenue than its global, elite competitors, yet maintain higher profits per partner. In 2015, for instance, Wachtell had $831.5 million in revenue, far less than Skadden’s $2.4 billion with 1,677 lawyers across the globe. Yet Wachtell had $6.6 million profits per partner, while Skadden’s partners saw $3,125,000 profits per partner in 2015, according to The American Lawyer.

So, all of this goes to say, the figures offer a limited — albeit, interesting and noteworthy — view into the financial success (or lack thereof) of these firms.

Some highlights from our findings are below.

Quinn Emanuel On the Up

Even despite the recent downturn in its mortgage-backed securities related litigation, Quinn Emanuel’s growth has been explosive when viewed over a nine-year trajectory. In 2007, the firm had $384,500,000 in revenue, but over the course of the following nine years it leaped 171 percent to $1 billion in revenue in the latest American Lawyer financial ranking. The financial prosperity has no doubt been tied two two big investments: patent disputes between the country’s largest mobile device manufacturers, and leveraging the firm’s large-litigation-boutique-model to sue the big banks in the wake of the financial crisis. Today, the firm is expanding into other areas as mortgage-backed securities litigation wanes, and antitrust, white collar defense and investigations proliferate. In one high-profile matter, FIFA retained the firm to represent it in a wide-sweeping corruption investigation over racketeering and bribes.

O’Melveny Going Down

O’Melveny & Myers has found itself on the other end of the spectrum. Once a $934,000,000 grossing law firm following a 2001 merger with a New York corporate boutique, the firm has seen its revenue slip by 26 percent over nine years to $689,500,000 in 2015. Its chair Brad Butwin spoke with Big Law Business when he was re-elected to serve as the firm’s leader this May, and seemed at ease with the firm’s current state of affairs. “I sleep pretty well,” he said. Some of the revenue erosion over the past near-decade can be attributed to some of the lawyer departures the firm has experienced: In 2014, Latham & Watkins recruited from O’Melveny a group of prominent entertainment deal lawyers in Los Angeles. Before that, in 2011, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison poached a group of seven corporate partners in New York.

Cravath Stays About the Same

You would think that with all the rich-getting-richer trend lines in the legal industry, Cravath, Swaine & Moore would be one firm that’s a clear standout, pulling away from the pack even further. While the firm still boasts its formidable No. 6 position in The American Lawyer’s profits-per-partner ranking, with $3.6 million, its revenue since 2007 has seen relatively modest gains. In 2007, its revenue stood at $610.5 million, while in 2015, that figure was $666.5 million. That’s perhaps not completely surprising given the firm’s size, with 90 equity partners anchoring its 472 lawyers overall. But even when looking at change in profits per partner since 2007, Cravath has slipped a little. In 2007, it ranked No. 2 in profits per partner just behind Skadden, and averaged $3.3 million in profits per partner — just $300,000 lower than the most recent rankings.

Paul Weiss Expands

Brad Karp, chair of Paul Weiss, recently spoke at our Big Law Business Summit about the growth of his firm, and the numbers don’t lie: In 2007, Paul Weiss had $651,000,000 in revenue, but in 2015, after making a number of hires to expand its corporate practice and continue to bring in marquee cases in its litigation and white collar defense practices, its revenue stood at $1,109,500,000. That’s about a 70 percent increase over nine years. Many of the cases Paul Weiss has handled have captured headlines. Its clients have included Apollo Global Management, SAC Capital in insider trading charges and the NFL in concussion lawsuits along with an investigation into Deflategate.

If you’d like to drill down further, below is a full list of the AmLaw 100 with comparative figures — from 2007 and 2015.

Skadden:

2007: $2,170,000,000

+11 percent

2015: $2,410,000,000

Latham:

2007: $2,005,500,000

+ 32.5 percent

2015: $2,650,000,000

Baker & McKenzie

2007: $1,829,000,000

+32.9 percent

2015: $2,430,000,000

Jones Day

2007: $1,441,000,000

+ 34.7 percent

2015: $1,941,000,000

Sidley Austin

2007: $1,386,000,000

+ 34.7 percent

2015: $1,867,000,000

White & Case

2007: $1,373,000,000

+ 10.9 percent

2015: $1,523,000,000

Kirkland & Ellis

2007: $1,310,000,000

+ 76 percent

2015: $2,305,000,000

Greenberg Traurig

2007: $1,200,000,000

+ 10 percent

2015: $1,321,500,000

Mayer Brown

2007: $1,183,000,000

+ 6.3 percent

2015: $1,257,000,000

Weil, Gotshal

2007: $1,175,000,000

-1 percent

2015: $1,164,000,000

DLA Piper US

2007: $1,134,500,000

+ 124 percent

2015: $2,543,000,000

Morgan Lewis

2007: $1,033,000,000

+78.5 percent

2015: $1,844,000,000

Sullivan & Cromwell

2007: $985, 000,000

+33.4 percent

2015: $1,314,000,000

McDermott Will

2007: $978,000,000

-8.8 percent

2015: $891,500,000

Paul, Hastings

2007: $975,000,000

+8.3 percent

2015: $1,056,500,000

Simpson Thacher

2007: $966,000,000

+32.2 percent

2015: $1,278,000,000

Wilmer

2007: $944,000,000

+20 percent

2015: $1,140,000,000

O’Melveny & Myers

2007: $934,000,000

-26.2 percent

2015: $689,500,000

Shearman & Sterling

2007: $921,000,000

-6.6 percent

2015: $860,500,000

Gibson, Dunn

2007: $907,500,000

+69.2 percent

2015: $1,535,500,000

Cleary Gottlieb

2007: $894,000,000

+35.6 percent

2015: $1,212,500,000

Morrison & Foerster

2007: $894,000,000

+9.5 percent

2015: $979,500,000

Reed Smith

2007: $892,000,000

+25 percent

2015: $1,123,000,000

Hogan & Hartson

2007: $880,000,000

+106 percent

2015: $1,821,000,000 (Hogan Lovells)

Dechert

2007: $836,500,000

+6.5 percent

2015: $890,000,000

Davis Polk

2007: $789,000,000

+39.4 percent

2015: $1,100,000,000

Orrick

2007: $772,000,000

+18.3 percent

2015: $913,000,000

Kirkpatrick & Lockhart

2007: $755,000,000

+41 percent

2015: $1,065,000,000 (K&L Gates)

Akin Gump

2007: $752,500,000

+23.7 percent

2015: $930,000,000

Bingham McCutchen

2007: $743,500,000

+148.2 percent

2015: $1,844,000,000 (Morgan Lewis)

Ropes & Gray

2007: $733,000,000

+89.6 percent

2015: $1,390,000,000

Foley & Lardner

2007: $720,500,000

-5.2 percent

2015: 682,000,000

Debevoise & Plimpton

2007: $709,500,000

+6.8 percent

2015: $757,000,000

Winston & Strawn

2007: $697,500,000

+17.4 percent

2015: $818,500,000

Hunton & Williams

2007: $653,500,000

-19.1 percent

2015: $528,000,000

Paul, Weiss

2007: $651,000,000

+70.4 percent

2015: $1,109,500,000

Fulbright & Jaworski

2007: $649,500,000

+167.6 percent

2015: $1,737,000,000 (Norton Rose)

Milbank, Tweed

2007: $642,500,000

+20 percent

2015: $771,000,000

Proskauer Rose

2007: $628,000,000

+30.9 percent

2015: $822,500,000

King & Spalding

2007: $615,500,000

+65.5 percent

2015: $1,018,500,000

Holland & Knight

2007: $612,500,000

+21.6 percent

2015: $744,000,000

Goodwin Procter

2007: $611,000,000

+41.6 percent

2015: $865,500,000

Cravath

2007: $610,500,000

+9.2 percent

2015: $666,500,000

Willkie Farr

2007: $603,000,000

+9.1 percent

2015: $658,000,000

Vinson & Elkins

2007: $596,000,000

+5.2 percent

2015: $627,500,000

Pillsbury Winthrop

2007: $590,000,000

-5.6 percent

2015: $557,000,000

Cadwalader

2007: $587,000,000

-21.1 percent

2015: $463,500,000

Wachtell

2007: $578,500,000

+43.8 percent

2015: $831,500,000

Baker Botts

2007: $577,500,000

+22 percent

2015: 704,500,000

LeBoeuf, Lamb

2007: $577,500,000

2015: Defunct

Fried, Frank

2007: $537,500,000

-6.1 percent

2015: $504,500,000

Wilson Sonsini

2007: $531,000,000

+38.4 percent

2015: $735,000,000

Squire, Sanders

2007: $530,500,000

+75.3 percent

2015: $929,000,000 (Squire Patton)

Alston & Bird

2007: $518,000,000

+32.8 percent

2015: $688,000,000

Arnold & Porter

2007: $508,000,000

+28 percent

2015: $650,000,000

Heller Ehrman

2007: $491,000,000

2015: Defunct

Cooley Godward

2007: $485,000,000

+88 percent

2015: $912,000,000

Sonnenschein

2007: $478,000,000

2015: See Dentons

Howrey

2007: $475,000,000

2015: Defunct

Bryan Cave

2007: $469,000,000

+31.6 percent

2015: $617,000,000

Covington & Burling

2007: $467,000,000

+58.9 percent

2015: $742,500,000

Kaye Scholer

2007: $464,000,000

-20.3 percent

2015: $370,000,000

Katten Muchin

2007: $461,000,000

+21.7 percent

2015: $561,500,000

Nixon Peabody

2007: $456,500,000

+1.1 percent

2015: $461,000,000

Seyfarth Shaw

2007: $442,500,000

+33.5 percent

2015: $590,000,000

Dewey Ballantine

2007: $431,000,000

2015: Defunct

Schulte Roth

2007: $419,500,000

-3.3 percent

2015: $405,500,000

McGuireWoods

2007: $412,000,000

+58.5 percent

2015: $653,500,000

Perkins Coie

2007: $394,500,000

+89.8 percent

2015: $748,500,000

Quinn Emanuel

2007: $384,500,000

+171.4 percent

2015: $1,042,500,000

Duane Morris

2007: $375,000,000

+15.7 percent

2015: $434,500,000

Fish & Richardson

2007: $367,500,000

+7.6 percent

2015: $395,000,000

Dorsey & Whitney

2007: $367,000,000

-8.4 percent

2015: $336,500,000

Drinker Biddle

2007: $357,000,000

+14.6 percent

2015: $409,500,000

Troutman Sanders

2007: $349,000,000

+34.1 percent

2015: $468,500,000

Thelen Reid

2007: $345,000,000

2015: Defunct

Steptoe & Johnson

2007: $335,000,000

+6.6 percent

2015: $357,500,000

Sheppard, Mullin

2007: $333,000,000

+68 percent

2015: $559,500,000

Jenner & Block

2007: $332,500,000

+40 percent

2015: $465,000,000

Venable

2007: $321,500,000

+48.6 percent

2015: $477,000,000

Edwards Angell

2007: $320,500,000

+86.6 percent

2015: $597,000,000 (Locke Lord)

Shook, Hardy

2007: $316,000,000

+1.9 percent

2015: $322,500,000

Baker & Hostetler

2007: $315,000,000

+101 percent

2015: $633,500,000

Blank Rome

2007: $314,500,000

+9.9 percent

2015: $345,000,000

Patton Boggs

2007: $310,000,000

+199.7 percent

2015: $929,000,000 (Squire Patton)

Finnegan, Henderson

2007: $306,500,000

+0.7 percent

2015: $308,000,000

Littler Mendelson

2007: $305,000,000

+66 percent

2015: $506,500,000

Pepper Hamilton

2007: $297,000,000

+30.6 percent

2015: $388,500,000

Stroock & Stroock

2007: $297,000,000

-10.8 percent

2015: $265,500,000

Kramer Levin

2007: $296,500,000

+12.2 percent

2015: $332,000,000

Dickstein Shapiro

2007: $294,000,000

+17.3 percent

2015: $345,000,000 (Blank Rome)

Mintz, Levin

2007: $291,000,000

+23.7 percent

2015: $360,000,000

Sutherland Asbill

2007: $289,000,000

+4.2 percent

2015: $301,000,000

Faegre & Benson

2007: $284,500,000

+64 percent

2015: $466,000,000 (Faegre Baker Daniels)

Womble Carlyle

2007: $284,500,000

+2.1 percent

2015: $290,000,000

Buchanan Ingersoll

2007: $282,000,000

+2.8 percent

2015: $290,500,000

Chadbourne & Parke

2007: $281,000,000

-11.4 percent

2015: $249,000,000

Ballard Spahr

2007: $280,500,000

+20.4 percent

2015: $337,500,000

Cahill Gordon

2007: $280,000,000

+30 percent

2015: $364,500,000

Kilpatrick Stockton

2007: $265,500,000

+55 percent

2015: $411,500,000 (Kilpatrick Townsend)

 

These firms fell off the AmLaw 100 between 2007 and 2015:

Sutherland

Womble Carlyle

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan

Finnegan Henderson

Shook Hardy

Sonnenschein

Thelen

Howrey

Dewey Ballantine

LeBoeuf Lamb

Heller Ehrman

Bingham McCutchen

Patton Boggs

Dickstein Shapiro

Thelen Reid

Edwards Angell

 

These firms made their way into the AmLaw 100 between 2007 and 2015:

Locke Lord

Fragomen

Polsinelli

Jackson Lewis

Lewis Brisbois

Williams & Connolly

Ogletree Deakins

Boies Schiller

Fox Rothschild

Fenwick & West

Crowell & Moring

Haynes and Boone

Hughes Hubbard and Reed

Barnes & Thornburg

Cozen O’Connor

Akerman

 

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