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Zimmerman's Research Guide


Law Firms

I. U.S. Firms

The best known and most extensive directory of U.S. law firms is Martindale-Hubbell (discussed further in the "Martindale-Hubbell" entry). One competitor is the FindLaw Lawyer Directory. These sources mostly give short bios of each firm's lawyers, as well as the firm's full name, address, phone & fax numbers and Web addresses. The NALP Directory provides a good statistical snapshot of the firms covered. The Law Firm Yellow Book gives the names of the firm's management (e.g., the chairmen of the executive board), committees, and administration (e.g., the Human Resources director), as well as addresses & phone numbers, year founded, number of lawyers, etc. For the names of other firm directories, see "Attorneys."

The largest U.S. firms are reviewed in The Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms, and Vault profiles are available on Vault.com (subscription only). You might also want to search blogs such as AboveTheLaw and/or check the gossip on the Greedy Associates message boards.

A good source for news about law firms is a the Legal News database on (NEWS;LGLNWS) and Westlaw (LEGALNP). Again, you might also want to search blogs such as AboveTheLaw and/or check the gossip on the Greedy Associates message boards. For news about the legal industry, also check Hildebrandt's Peer Monitor Index and the Altman Weil web site. For hiring and downsizing trends, see survey reports in the Robert Half Press Room.

American Lawyer Media compiles an annual list of firms representing the Fortune 100, called "Corporate Representation (Who Counsels Who)" which is available from Corporate Counsel and Law.com. (Until at least 2002 the list was published in National Law Journal).

Billing rates: Surveys of law firm billing rates include ...

  1. The "NLJ Law Firm Billing Survey," also known as "A nationwide sampling of law firm billing rates," by the National Law Journal. The Survey is based on a poll of the 350 largest U.S. law firms (was 250 until 2012). The Survey is generally published in one of the December issues, and you may be able to find some or all of the report through the Special Reports page of the Journal's web site. You can buy a copy from ALM Legal Intelligence.
  2. The "Of Counsel 700," a special issue of Of Counsel magazine published each September. The report lists the 700 largest U.S. law firms and provides rates for some.
  3. Vault Salary Reports are compiled for large U.S. firms.
  4. The "Matter Benchmark Reports" by Serengeti are available on WestlawNext. They don't have rates for individual firms, but you can break down the data by location and practice area.
  5. The "Rates" section of the quarterly Hildebrandt Peer Monitor Index. The Index does not include rates for individual firms, but rather reports on trends. The latest Index is posted on the Peer Monitor web site.
  6. The "Billing Rates" sections of the Altman Weil "Survey of Law Firm Economics" reports average billing rate trends. You may be able to find Altman Weil Surveys and/or survey summaries on the Altman Weil web site. Otherwise, they are available for sale through ALM Legal Intelligence and/or the ALM Research Store.
  7. The "Billing Rate & Associate Salary Survey" (BRASS or BRASSplus) - one for the U.S. and one for the U.K - by PriceWaterhouseCoopers break down the data by region, city and/or practice area. PWC reports are generally available only to PWC clients and survey participants.
  8. The Real Rate Report by ELM / Wolters Kluwer ($).
  9. The Valeo Attorney Hourly Rates Database and the related Valeo 20xx Rate Report ($$)
  10. ALM Media publishes a "Billing Rates and Practices" survey for small and medium firms, both sold through ALM Legal Intelligence;
  11. BTI Consulting's What Clients Pay and What Law Firms Charge: BTI's Billing Rate Reference ($$);
  12. The biennial AIPLA Report of the Economic Survey, which covers IP lawyers and patent agents.

The results of these and other billing rate surveys are often summarized in the legal press (the National Law Journal, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, etc.). You might also find billing rates for a particular city, state or region compiled by the relevant legal newspaper, such as the The Daily Record for Baltimore and the Fulton County Daily Report for Georgia and the Daily Business Review for Florida. (ALM sells the Review's Florida Billing Report).

In addition to the surveys, you can look up a particular firm's billing rate if they worked on a bankruptcy case or a Federal class action case. If they have, they will submit a Fee Petition, asking the court to let their fees be paid out of the bankruptcy estate or payout to the class. The Petition will have a breakdown for each attorney, his/her years of practice and his/her billing rate. You can search for petitions yourself on PACER or one of the related commercial services (see "Docket Sheets"). There are also commercial reports using bankruptcy petition data including:

The NALP Directory provides information on the number of hours associates work and bill annually.

Compensation: See the "Lawyers and Law Firms" section of the Compensation entry.

Cost recovery: The Cost Recovery Survey by Mattern & Associates indicates what kinds of expenses firms are able to bill back to clients.

Management: Westlaw's LAWPRAC database is a good source for legal management articles; you might also want to search LEGALNP. You can find articles on the state of the legal profession in the National Law Journal and the ABA Journal. Altman Weil posts articles and surveys on all aspects of law firm management. Hildebrand's Peer Monitor Index provides quarterly reports the state of the legal industry. The quarterly Robert Half Legal Hiring Index covers the employment market.

Publications, Blogs, etc.: If you know the firm you can generally find their publications, blogs, press releases and other official communcations posted on the firm web site. For print publications you can call the firm and ask them to send you a copy.

To find law firm memos on a particular topic try Lexology, Mondaq, the subscription-based Lexis Securities Mosaic, LawKT.com by Surfwax or Intelligize, or just search the web with at least two good search engines. MyCorporate Resource.com and the subscription-based TheCorporateCounsel.net collect law firm memos on corporate and securities laws.

Rankings: Rankings for U.S. firms include the National Law Journal's NLJ 250 (largest firms), the U.S. News & World Report's "Best Law Firms," covering thousands of firms nation-wide, the American Lawyer's AmLaw 100, AmLaw 200, and "A-List" of "Best Firms," The Legal 500 (starting 2014) and the Vault Law 100 (prestige).

There are also state-wide and city-wide rankings, often compiled by legal newspapers (e.g, the New York Law Journal compiles a "NYLJ 100" and Legal Times 150 for D.C.; note: the Legal Times is now published as part of the National Law Journal). The Crain's for a city usually publishes an annual list of the city's largest firms. To find these rankings, I generally first try my luck on the Internet with a search engine or two. If that doesn't work, I'll look on Lexis or Westlaw. Chambers USA ranks firms by state and practice group.

Other Vault rankings include "The Best Firms to Work For," "The Best Firms in Each Practice Area," "The Best Firms in Each U.S. Region" and "Partner Prestige."

Diversity Ranking: The Minority Law Journal publishes an annual "Diversity Scorecard" and Vault does The Best Law Firms for Diversity.

Corporate Rankings: Firms involved in the most/biggest/etc. corporate deals (mergers, acquisitions, stock and bond issues, etc.) for the preceding year are listed in (a) the Corporate Scorecard supplement to the April issue of The American Lawyer, (b) the January-February issue of Corporate Control Alert, (c) one of the January issues of the Investment Dealer's Digest (which may have quarterly supplements), (d) Deals Intelligence (rankings are compiled quarterly; access is available with free registration) and (e) LIVEDGAR's Mergers & Acquisitions database. In addition, Corporate Control Alert lists the biggest known legal fees. Corporate Board Member magazine compiles an annual survey of the "Best Corporate Law Firms." Note: Deal rankings are often called "League Tables."

Intellectual Property: Euromoney produces an annual World IP Survey, available online on February 1, and published serially in the February, March and April issues of Managing Intellectual Property magazine. The survey ranks the top Patent, Trademark and Copyright firms in each country.

Securities Litigation: ISS (formerly Securities Watch) publishes The Top SCAS 50, a list of the plaintiff firms doing the most securities litigation.

Securitization Rankings: Asset-Backed Alert ranks the leading securitization firms in an issue that comes out near the beginning of February.

II. Foreign Firms

For information on foreign law firms, look in the international sections of Martindale-Hubbell, the various editions of the Chambers directories (i.e., Global, Europe, U.K., Asia-Pacific and Latin America), and/or the Guide to Foreign Law Firms (ABA). You can also use the IFLR 1000, the Expert Guides to the World's Leading Lawyers and/or Asialaw Profiles, all published by Euromoney. The International Law List (available at the NYCLA library) provides names, addresses, phone numbers and sometimes the attorney's names and practice areas. The American Lawyer publishes a list of the largest firms in the world ranked by revenue called the "Global 100."

Country-specific Internet law firm directories include: The Legal 500 Series, which profiles "top" firms in over 100 countries; the Canada Legal Directory (Carswell) and the Canadian Lexpert Legal Directory; Solicitors-Online.com, which has English & Welsh firms; InfoLaw, which lists British & Irish firms; and Latin Lawyer 250, which lists leading firms in Central America and South America (subscription only). the leading law firms in Latin America. Asian Legal Business publishes lists of the largest firms in Australia & New Zealand and as well as China.

Even more directories are listed in "Locate Lawyers and Law Firms in U.S. and the World" by the Georgetown Law Library.

If those sources don't get you what you need, try searching the internet, news databases and specific industry newspapers such as Legal Week and The Lawyer. If all you need is a firm's address and/or phone number, you can usually Google it or, if necessary, get the number from the international operator and call the firm to get the address. You can also call the country's embassy (usually in or near D.C.) or mission to the U.N. (usually in or near N.Y.C.). If available, check N.Y. or D.C. telephone directories under the country's name for possible sources of assistance.

Rankings: The Lawyer publishes the UK 200, a list of the 200 largest U.K. firms, a UK 200 Annual Report, which provides information about the firms, and the European 100, a list of and report on the 100 firms in Europe ranked by revenue. Vault ranks the top 50 UK firms. Lexpert compiles lists of Canada's Largest Law Firms, both nation-wide and by City.

See Also

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman