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The Billion-Pound Gorilla, er Law Firm

If you're looking for a one-billion-pound law firm, you'll need to search outside New York, Los Angeles or other urban habitats where you might expect to find it. That's because the world's first law firm to top $1 billion pounds in revenue is Clifford Chance, a "truly integrated global law firm" headquarted in London. From the article:

But Clifford Chance, by beating its US rivals to the coveted title of the first £1bn business, stands out as the world's biggest billing law firm ever with a gross turnover that is a tenth of the total figure for all the top 100 of UK law practices. "The firm generated £10.8bn in revenue, with 6,557 partners sharing £3.5bn of profit. For many the take-home pay package will be simply eye-watering," said Jim Baxter, editor of Legal Business, which compiled the tables. "We have seen the arrival of the world's first £1bn law firm, Clifford Chance, and Pinsent Mason's astonishing 71 per cent increase in profits per equity partner (the all important benchmark for law firm performance)."

So, how does Clifford Chance compare to top U.S. firms? $10.8 billion pounds is the equivalent of $20,376,078,592 (U.S. dollars, from this currency converter). According to this chart at Bruce MacEwen's blog, the top three grossing Am Law 100 firms are:  Skadden, with $1.58 billion in earnings (903 million pounds); Latham & Watkins ($1.4 billion; 800.8 million pounds -- no wonder they can afford to hire 276 summer associates); and Baker & McKenzie ($1.350 billion, $773 million pounds). And individually, U.K. lawyers are doing also doing well; just yesterday, my co-blogger, Bob Ambrogi, posted on how it's been a banner year for some U.K. Biglaw partners.

So what does this mean for U.S. law firms? Can they compete on a global level, or will the United Kingdom come to dominate the world market? Should law schools be training lawyers so that they can practice outside the United States and in other areas, so that they can expand job options overseas? Or is the recent news about Clifford Chance's billion-dollar year simply a fluke? Let me hear your comments below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 25, 2006 at 06:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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