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Are Am Law Rankings Distorted by Swiss Vereins? Two of Top Five Operate This Way

Posted May 2, 2011 8:32 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The American Lawyer’s rankings of the world’s biggest firms are distorted, according to a BigLaw managing partner.

In an American Lawyer article, K&L Gates chairman and global managing partner Peter Kalis says the magazine is improperly grouping financial numbers from law firms associated with each other through a Swiss verein. The Am Law Daily has a partial reprint.

Two of the law firms in American Lawyer’s top five, in terms of revenue, are organized under the Swiss law, which recognizes an association of independent member organizations. They are DLA Piper and Hogan Lovells.

The American Lawyer lists the top five revenue-producing firms as:

1) Baker & McKenzie

2) Skadden

3) DLA Piper

4) Latham & Watkins

5) Hogan Lovells

K&L Gates is in the No. 16 spot. It is among 17 law firms reporting more than $1 billion in revenue.

Law firms grouped under the Swiss verein concept do not share a common profit pool, Kalis says. He cites as an example DLA Piper, ranked second in terms of head count and third in terms of gross revenue. DLA Piper US and DLA Piper International are linked simply through a referral arrangement, he says.

“There is no question that the Am Law 100 ranking works well when it compares single law firms,” Kalis writes. “But if, through the device of a verein, two or more law firms are permitted to report results on a consolidated basis, the ranking is distorted, and the value of The Am Law 100 is undermined.”

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “BigLaw Money Machine Revs Up Again: PPP Rose 8.4% at Am Law 100 in 2010, to Average $1.36M”

ABAJournal.com: “BigLaw Lost Nearly 10K Lawyers in Last Three Years”

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