Which Law Firms Are the Healthiest? The Leopard Law Firm Index Developed by Leopard Solutions, Above The Law and Adam Smith Esq. Tracks the Health of Law Firms in Real Time
March 9, 2022
The unexpected nature of the events of the past two years has made it crystal clear that anything can happen in the blink of an eye and that it is crucial to be prepared for market fluctuations.
Having real-time data analytics and analysis that looks beyond financials has never been more important or helpful to measure the true performance of law firms so they can proactively plan their recruiting and growth strategies.
From our conversations and research with in-house counsel, we know they care about whether the outside firms they are choosing are healthy, stable and aligned with their corporate goals.
Are vanity award rankings important to them? Not really. Will they hire outside counsel based on those lists? Probably not.
The Leopard Law Firm Index can help in-house counsel get a more accurate sense of how law firms are really are doing in the present day as well as help law firms diagnose potential issues threatening the health of their organization before it’s too late.
The current landscape of rankings in the legal industry
There are many established legal industry rankings that have sought to evaluate law firms against their peers in a variety of categories, with financial performance being the top ranked metric.
We think they fall flat in terms of accurately measuring the health, stability and success of a law firm, which can change in a single quarter.
In addition, many of the current published rankings are obsolete by the time they are released because they are outdated. 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., answers these questions and more – looking at some data at a fixed point in time and others as the data changes, which paints a more robust and accurate picture of how a firm is really doing in the market and in comparison to its peers.
The Top 10 Firms in the Leopard Law Firm Index
These are the firms that most consistently finished in the top 10 during 2021:
- 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 Top Law Firms on the Leopard Law Firm Index with the Most Points Gained in 2021 are
- 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
What is the methodology of the Leopard Law Firm Index?
Every law firm that Leopard Solutions tracks, currently over 4,200 law firms, is listed on The Leopard Law Firm Index and is updated twice a week. The data focuses on the overall health of a law firm in real-time. Those numbers can change each week and if a large enough change has occurred, the index will reflect it.
The Leopard Top 250 examines the top 250 firms based on most recent data compiled by Leopard Solutions, allowing for accuracy reflection of the top global law firms at that time. This process helps explains why some of the firms above are included in the Leopard Law Firm Index but omitted from the AmLaw 200 list and vice versa. In order to be considered for the Leopard Top 250 list, firms had to have more than 150 lawyers and have a score of “good” in the index.
The Index is not solely focused on financial growth but considers several factors, such as attorney growth and retention, financial stability over time, attorney promotions as well as how ethnically diverse a firm is compared to others.
The Leopard Law Firm Index gives each firm a score from 0 to 500, with 500 being the highest possible score. There are four distinct statuses in the scoring system:
- 0 to 124 – Poor
- 125 to 249 – Fair
- 250 to 374 – Good
- 375 to 500 – Very Good
Why did we create the Leopard Law Firm Index?
The Leopard Law Firm Index was created to provide unique insights so that firms can prioritize areas that need focus to enhance longer-term viability. Solutions for individual firms will vary based on each firm’s history, capabilities and aspirations.
Laura Leopard, Founder and CEO of Leopard Solutions says, “We see firms each year that go under but are still ranked among the top firms in the country by other entities. We also believe that financials do not tell the entire story about firm health. The data points we use in The Leopard Law Firm Index track firm strength and weaknesses in a real-time basis in an effort to give greater insight into the legal landscape. We knew there was a better way to do it and so we did it.”
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
The Leopard Law Firm Index provides a 30,000-foot view of law firm health and stability using a more robust list of criteria than current ranking systems are able to provide on a real-time basis by an objective third-party. Our rankings are more inclusive than older models and provide the law firms of today with the information they need to track themselves and their competitors more effectively and efficiently.
Watch a webinar on the results of the 2021 Leopard Law Firm Index.