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Second-hundred largest firms ‘gambled on growth’ in 2012, boosting nonequity partners by 10 percent

Posted Jun 3, 2013 5:44 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law firms in the American’s Lawyer’s “second hundred” tier boosted lawyer head count by 3 percent last year, a total of 885 lawyers.

Much of the growth came consisted of nonequity partners, whose ranks increased by 10.1 percent, a total of 584 lawyers, the American Lawyer reports. The number of equity partners increased by a smaller 1.1 percent at these firms. A press release summarizes the findings.

The new lawyers boosted 2012 revenue to $18.51 billion for the second-hundred largest firms, a 3.2 percent increase from the prior year and an all-time high.

The nation’s top 100 firms, on the other hand, increased head count by less than 1 percent and still managed to boost gross revenues by 3.4 percent. “Seldom has the strategic divide between The Am Law 100 and the Second Hundred been so stark,” the American Lawyer says. “Faced with a tepid economic recovery in 2012, the big boys played it safe—and their smaller competitors gambled on growth. …

“Second Hundred firms are wagering that, as the economy improves, their lower rates—compared to The Am Law 100's—will drive work their way, and that their investment in new partners will ultimately pay off.”

The Second Hundred firms with the largest gross revenue gains were Ice Miller and Holland & Hart, with increases of 32.5 percent and 22.1 percent respectively. Ice Miller’s head count increased by 37.4 percent after a merger, while Holland & Hart reaped a large contingency fee in a suit filed on behalf of Idaho farmers.

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