2012: A better year than expected for many large firms

February 11, 2013

Legal ResearchThis post was written by Patricia Taylor.

According to a preliminary survey conducted by Wells Fargo Private Bank’s Legal Specialty Group, 2012 was a profitable year for nation’s top 200 law firms. This comes as a surprise as all prospects appeared grim in the Fall of 2012 with reports of reducing partnership and declining billable hours.

As compared to 2011, large law firms included in the survey recognized a 5 percent increase in revenues. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports the augment is a result of added collection efforts in light of the looming fiscal cliff. According to the report law firms may have been extra motivated to get cash in hand before year’s end in an effort to protect their top earners from hefty tax hikes in 2013.

Other notable findings from the report include:

-AmLaw Second Hundred firms outperformed the First Hundred firms in terms of revenue by over 2 percent.
-Warmer climates were the real winners, outpacing all other regions with revenue increases of 8 – 11 percent.
-New York/Northeast firms fared the worst with only 1 percent revenue growth.
-The Am Law Daily reported a net increase of 7,800 legal jobs in 2012.

Although growth of revenue and jobs is good news, the managing director of Wells Fargo Private Bank’s Legal Specialty Group urged caution. If large law firms take their foot off the gas pedal on controlling expenses or stop focusing on productivity they may see 2013 under the same pressure as 2012.