'American Lawyer' Revenue List Shows New No. 1 Firm: DLA Piper

Photograph by Thorney Lieberman

Every spring, American Lawyer feeds the competitiveness and greed of large law firm partners by posting its annual lists of who’s making what. Since law firms aren’t required to report their revenue or earnings, AmLaw’s intrepid data-gathering draws lots of attention.

The headline news from this year’s list: “For the first time ever, neither Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom nor Baker & McKenzie heads the AmLaw 100′s gross revenue rankings. DLA Piper—already the world’s largest firm by head count—is now the top-grossing firm as well.”

DLA Piper, which has more than 4,000 attorneys and roots in Baltimore, grossed $2.44 billion in 2012, up 8.6 percent from 2011. This honor will go some way toward salving bruised egos at DLA Piper after an embarrassing fee dispute with a client recently went public. Twenty firms posted gross revenue of $1 billion or more, compared with 17 in 2011, according to AmLaw.

Size isn’t everything in Big Law, however. AmLaw’s profits-per-partner chart shows that DLA Piper ranked in the middle of the pack, at No. 54, with $1.3 million, up 6.9 percent. Not too shabby, unless you compare it with the top of the profit list, where smaller, more exclusive firms retained their hold.

You can peruse all the details for yourself (and imagine the Champagne cork-popping celebrations), but rest assured that at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, the 79 equity partners have big smiles on their faces. Wachtell’s partners took home an average of $4.975 million apiece in 2012, up 11 percent, according to AmLaw. Wachtell, which specializes in mergers and acquisitions and bet-the-company litigation, also posted the best profit margin of any firm, with 64 percent.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.