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The American Lawyer Finds Law Firm Leaders Look to Hire Litigators, Washington, DC, Partners in 2014; Worried by Underperformers

The American Lawyer Finds Law Firm Leaders Look to Hire Litigators, Washington, DC, Partners in 2014; Worried by Underperformers

NEW YORK – Dec. 2, 2013 – ALM’s The American Lawyer‘s survey of leaders of the Am Law 200, the nation’s largest law firms, finds mild optimism and modest growth expectations for 2014. In lateral hiring plans, the hottest practice is litigation and the hottest city is Washington, as regulatory rollout boosts lawyer demand. But fully 85 percent of respondents worry about underperforming partners, and overall deequitizations are expected to rise. The 11th annual Law Firm Leaders survey is published in the December issue and at

Of the 105 firm leaders who responded to the survey, 70 percent expect the U.S. economic recovery to continue at the current pace in 2014, while 23 percent expect it to speed up. Looking at their own firms’ profits per partner next year, 60 percent forecast growth of 5 percent or less over 2013; 21 percent expect more than 5 percent growth; 16 percent see flat PPP. As for billing rates, 85 percent say they will rise 5 percent or less; 13 percent expect increases of over 5 percent; only 2 percent see no change in rates.

Asked in which practice areas they expect to add lateral partners next year, 82 percent named litigation, 70 percent corporate, 58 percent intellectual property and 22 percent real estate. Much less likely targets were financial services regulatory, mentioned by 7 percent of respondents; bankruptcy/restructuring 6 percent; health care 5 percent; labor and employment 4 percent; and energy 3 percent. The top five cities in which lateral additions are expected are Washington, DC, mentioned by 69 percent of leaders; New York 67 percent; Los Angeles 42 percent; Chicago 33 percent; and San Francisco 32 percent.

To the question, “How worried are you that partners are not billing enough hours?,” 61 percent said “somewhat” and 24 percent “very.” Sixty-eight percent agreed with the statement that some of their partners are “staying on too long” before retirement. Forty-seven percent say their firm has deequitized partners this year, and 53 percent expect to do so in 2014.

Full survey data are available for purchase in searchable, sortable Excel format from ALM Legal Intelligence

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