It takes little discernment to conclude that "Adam Smith,
Esq." could be more appropriately subtitled "…an inquiry into the economics
of [Big] law firms."* Not only would this
conclusion be correct, but since I know for a fact that you, dear readers,
are an exceptionally discerning lot, I am telling you nothing you don’t
Still, the question arises as to how much of the total landscape of
law-firm-land I am consciously overlooking. Today we have an answer.
According to the US
Census, in 2003 (most recent statistics available),
the total revenue for "taxable" (i.e., not non-profit) law firms was
$178.95-billion. Meanwhile, over at the Bureau
of Labor Statistics (the government is not known for its embrace
of one-stop-shopping), we learn that about 521,000 lawyers were employed
in for-profit law firms (i.e., not government or in-house corporate).**
And thanks to The
American Lawyer, we
know that the total revenue of the AmLaw 100 for 2004 was $46.04-billion
and that those firms employed a total of 68,186 lawyers. Now
you can see this coming, right?
Non-AmLaw 100 Law Firms
% of lawyers (headcount)
% of total (private) legal industry revenue
You can thank Craig
Williams for setting me loose on this trail.
What do I conclude? First, that the focus of this blog is not
about to change. Second, that it would be interesting to see an
historic time-series of this data. My educated hunch? The
AmLaw 100’s share of total legal-industry revenue is growing, as is their
share of lawyer headcount: But revenue is growing at a faster rate.
*The phrase "an inquiry into" is lifted from the full title of Adam
Smith’s 1776 masterpiece, which is An Inquiry Into the Nature and
Causes of The
Wealth of Nations.
**The 521,000 figure does not appear directly on the page I cite, but
I derived it from their total full-time lawyer headcount (695,000) combined
with their observation that "3 out of 4" lawyers are work in law firms
of all sizes (including solo practitioners).