The Healthiest Law Firms of 2021
March 16, 2022
There are many established legal industry rankings that seek to evaluate law firms against their peers in a variety of categories, with financial performance being the top-ranked metric.
Some of them fall flat in terms of accurately measuring the health, stability and success of a law firm, which can change in a single quarter, making some of these current rankings are obsolete by the time they are released. In addition, the financial information on which many of the rankings are largely self-reported by the firms.
Further, many of these rankings are based on client or peer review and they don’t ask questions such as:
- What makes a firm successful?
- What key elements can be measured throughout the year to understand what is happening inside the firms?
- What data points should be considered?
- How is the firm really doing when it comes to diversity?
- Is the firm able to attract and retain its lawyers?
The Leopard Law Firm Index, developed by Leopard Solutions, Above The Law and Adam Smith Esq., sought to provide a more accurate sense of how law firms are really doing in the present day as well as help law firms diagnose potential issues threatening the health of their organization early on so they could take measures to remedy those areas. The Index does this by looking at some data at a fixed point in time and others as the data changes, which paints a robust and accurate picture of how a firm is really doing in the market and compared to its peers.
The key metrics we use to determine a law firm’s success and health include:
- Growth/declines in attorney headcount
- Growth/declines in revenue per lawyer (RPL) over a 5-year period, indicating increases or declines in how clients value the lawyers at a firm
- Relative success in lateral recruiting and retention (partners and associates)
- Insider Score – surveys of attorneys at the firm about their workplace (done in partnership with Above the Law)
- Relative success in recruiting and retaining entry-level lawyers
- Lawyer promotions
- Ethnic diversity within the firm
So, which firms were at the top of the Leopard Law Firm Index in 2021?
There was nothing ordinary about 2021 when it came to law firms. The demand for legal services, productivity and rates soared in 2021 bringing with it a growing war for legal talent.
As a result, law firms of all sizes across the country found themselves locked in a battle to recruit and retain lawyers of all levels and practices, especially litigators and corporate transactional lawyers in a changed industry.
2021 saw firms make changes that were almost unthinkable before such as working from home or completely remotely, shortening the partner track, upskilling and creating new positions to retain talent. It’s clear that mix of in-person and remote work will likely be a fixture of law firm office life going forward. These changes would have taken at least a decade to cement in place, but due to the pandemic they arrived in record time.
In this environment many firms flourished. The law firms that most consistently finished in the Leopard Law Firm Index’s top 10 during 2021 were:
- Kirkland & Ellis LLP
- Latham & Watkins LLP
- Cooley LLP
- Greenberg Traurig LLP
- Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
- Holland & Knight LLP
- Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP
- Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
The law firms on the Leopard Law Firm Index with the Most Points Gained in 2021 were:
- Foster Garvey PC
- Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP
- Davis & Gilbert LLP
- Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
- Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
- Schiff Hardin LLP
- Shipman & Goodwin LLP
- Frost Brown Todd
- Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, LLP
The pandemic has shown how stable the legal profession is and will continue to be in the face of the most challenging of circumstances. Multidimensional analysis such as the Leopard Law Firm Index can reduces bias, eliminates perception and provide a fresh and all compassing view of law firms today.
View the Leopard Law Firm Index to see the full list of current law firm rankings.