Business of Law

Survey says BigLaw growth is highest since 2007, due to foreign mergers

The nation’s largest law firms had a robust 3.9 percent growth rate in 2013, ending the year with 4,412 more lawyers on their attorney rosters.

But that increase in headcount—the biggest since 2007, before the economic crash resulted in a decline of 5.3 percent; and considerably more than the 1.1 percent tallied in 2012—was because of to foreign mergers rather than an influx of attorneys at the U.S. offices of BigLaw firms, the National Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The 350 U.S.-based firms surveyed by the NLJ to reach this conclusion ranged from the two biggest, Baker & McKenzie and DLA Piper, hovering just above and below the 4,000-attorney level, respectively, to Farella Braun + Martel, which has 115 lawyers on its attorney roster.

Nos. 3 and 4 on the list, Norton Rose Fulbright and Dentons, both resulted from mergers. (Fulbright & Jaworski merged with Norton Rose, and SNR Denton combined with Salans and Fraser Milner Casgrain.)

While energy and technology remain hot practice areas in the U.S., major firms are looking to grow in Africa, Asia and Latin America rather than domestically, professor David Wilkins of Harvard Law School tells the NLJ.

“The imperative is so great to figure out what your global strategy is going to be—where you’re going to be when the U.S. market is going to be a smaller and smaller part of the market.”

A tip of the hat to the DealBook blog of the New York Times (reg. req.).

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