Press Release

The National Law Journal Unveils the 2018 NLJ 500

2018 NLJ 500 Data Reveals head count growth slowed nationwide and average firm size grew

New York, NY – June 28, 2018 The National Law Journal (NLJ) has released the NLJ 500 data, providing a detailed look at head count changes in the nation’s largest law firms.

“The story of the 2018 NLJ 500 appears to be one of measured growth. Though the numbers suggest and industry experts confirm that the overall market is relatively flat, firms are still finding a way,” said Lisa Helem, Editor-in-Chief, The National Law Journal. “First, head count growth increased in 2017 over 2016, but by a smaller percentage than last year’s growth–about 1% growth in 2017 compared with about 2% growth the year before. Although there was an uptick in the average firm size in the 2018 NLJ 500, it was smaller than the increase reported in last year’s NLJ 500. Average firm size rose by four lawyers in 2017 over 2016. Comparatively, firms saw a seven-lawyer increase in 2016 over 2015. At the same time, we saw a real impact on the market from several NLJ 500 law firm mergers, with some firms boosting their head count by large percentages, and thus, their position on the NLJ 500. ”

The 2018 NLJ 500 data, along with a special report analyzing the results, will be made available in the July 2018 print issue of The National Law Journal, and online at https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/. The data is available for online purchase at at.alm.com/nlj500. To view the interactive data with year-over-year trends and peer comparisons visit Legal Compass: https://www.alm.com/intelligence/solutions-we-provide/business-of-law-solutions/legal-compass/

The report’s findings include:

  • Slowed Growth: While over half of the nations top 500 firms reported growth in head count, overall growth was slower this year. The US’s largest 500 firms grew their head count by 1.1% this year, significantly slower than the 2.1% growth last year.
  • Uptick in Average Firm Size: The average firm size rose by four lawyers to 331.
  • Decline in Equity Partners: The number of equity partners declined by nearly 400, representing a 1% decline.
  • Changes in Partnership Structures: 39% of firms increased the percentage of non-equity partners within their partnership, a trend which as particularly evident in larger firms
  • International Growth Outpaced Domestic Growth: Firms grew their head counts by 1.4% last year, compared to 1.0% domestically. International locations with particularly strong growth included the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada.

The NLJ 500 data is compiled in collaboration with ALM Intelligence’s Legal division and analyzes head count data on the nation’s largest 500 law firms. ALM Intelligence compiles the number of associates, non-equity partners, and equity partners for each firm and also collects additional data on the size of each of the firm’s offices. In total, ALM Intelligence collected information on 4,800+ law firm offices across the globe.

The NLJ 500 data helps add additional context to the Am Law 200 data, which was released last month,” said Nicholas Bruch, Senior Analyst, ALM Intelligence. “This data gives us a picture of what is happening beyond the 200 largest firms and allows us to see legal market trends at the metro area and regional level. What we see in this year’s data is the growing operational differences between the nation’s largest one hundred firms and their smaller peers. We also see some very clear regional trends. Major markets on the east and west coasts within the United States and large global business centers are experiencing above average growth rates. These trends are important for firms to understand as they highlight structural changes firms should be considering and opportunities for growth.”

About The National Law Journal

The National Law Journal, an ALM publication, offers industry-leading coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court, national litigation, federal regulation and law firms. Please visit  https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/ or follow us on Twitter @TheNLJ for more on our coverage.

About ALM Intelligence

ALM Intelligence, a division of ALM Media LLC, supports legal, consulting, and benefits decision-makers seeking guidance on critical business challenges. Our proprietary market reports and analysis, rating guides, prospecting tools, surveys, and rankings, inform and empower business leaders to meet business challenges with confidence. Please visit www.alm.com/intelligence for more information.

About ALM

ALM, an information and intelligence company, provides customers with critical news, data, analysis, marketing solutions and events to successfully manage the business of business. ALM serves a community of over 6 million business professionals seeking to discover, connect and compete in highly complex industries. Please visit www.alm.com for more information, and visit www.alm.com/events/ to learn about our upcoming events. Please follow us on Twitter at @ALMMedia.