Spokane Journal of Business

Employment at large firms grew in '11

Last year's 1.7 percent gain reversed a decline over the two prior years

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Headcount among the top law firms in the U.S. increased marginally last year, based on data compiled for the National Law Journal's recently published 35th annual ranking of the nation's 250 largest firms.

Those top firms collectively employed 126,293 lawyers in 2011, up 1.7 percent from 124,161 in 2010, but still below the all-time high of 133,723 recorded in 2008. Last year's gains reversed the contraction of 2009 and 2010, during which the nation's largest law firms experienced a net decline in employed lawyers.

In spite of the overall increase in employment last year at the firms on the list, only about half of those firms grew, with 118 firms reporting more lawyers and 109 reporting fewer. Eight firms were flat and the remaining 15 were new to this year's list.

The NLJ 250, as it's called, appeared in the March 26th issue of the newspaper and is available online at www.nlj.com/nlj250.

"After three years of flat to negative growth, 2011 was the year that the nation's 250 largest law firms started getting bigger again," says David L. Brown, editor in chief of The National Law Journal. "We found that headcount growth last year was robust among firms focused on labor and employment and on international work, but despite the big years enjoyed by the technology and energy industries, growth at firms traditionally associated with that work was modest or in a few cases even down."

The Top 10 law firms on the list were Baker & McKenzie, 3,805 lawyers; DLA Piper, 3,746; Jones Day, 2,407; Hogan Lovells, 2,253; Latham & Watkins, 2,014; White & Case, 1,906; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, 1,832; K&L Gates, which has a Spokane office, 1,762; Greenberg Traurig, 1,699; and Sidley Austin, 1,592.

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