The most recent edition of the Legal Times 150, the annual ranking of the largest Washington, DC law offices, shows that headcounts for law firms in the DC-metro area continued to drop. As of December 31, 2011, the total number of lawyers declined by 3%, to 14,497 lawyers, according to the National Law Journal (subscription required). The drop was not quite as steep as the decline from 2009 to 2010, when headcounts dipped 4.5% – the largest drop in 25 years, but it still indicates that firms are being cautious given the current economic uncertainty.
Firms were asked to provide numbers for full-time equivalents and not staff or contract attorneys, patent agents or summer associates. Data was collected for each office in the District of Columbia; Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland; and Arlington and Fairfax counties and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church in Virginia.
Hogan Lovells holds the top spot on the list with 433 lawyers in 2011. Arnold & Porter and Covington & Burling followed closely behind Hogan, tying for the number two spot, with 429 lawyers each. Rounding out the top ten were WilmerHale (402), Crowell & Moring (291), Skadden (282), Steptoe & Johnson LLP (276), Latham & Watkins (273), Sidley Austin (266) and Williams & Connolly (264). Among these top ten firms, six reported an increase in headcount. However, from April through December of last year, NLJ reports that a total of 55 firms increased their headcount while 14 firms saw no change.
Despite the overall decline in the number of lawyers recorded by the Legal Times 150 ranking, firms are expanding into the Washington, DC market, as we noted earlier in the year, including Allen & Overy, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Miles & Stockbridge. Add to the list Bass, Berry & Sims, Chapman and Cutler, Gordon & Rees, and Quarles & Brady, all of which have opened DC offices this year. An increase in regulatory matters is driving some of this expansion as well as an increase in intellectual property work, particularly Section 337 investigations at the International Trade Commission, a growing venue for international patent disputes.
Posted by Marianne Purzycki