Bigger isn't better in Washington DC

August 7, 2012 A survey of the law firms operating in Washington DC indicates that the “bigger is better” growth strategy might be a thing of the past. In fact, eight of the region’s 10 largest law firms maintained or shrank their headcount by up to 4 per cent since the end of 2011. Skadden Arps and Steptoe & Johnson bucked the local trend with modest growth of their local attorney head counts, which rose by 4 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile, the industry has seen the failure of Washington firm Howrey and New York firm Dewey & LeBoeuf in recent years. Those firms are seen to have paid dearly for their strategy of aggressive expansion during the global recession.

And while much of the recent cost cutting has been made by reducing associate numbers, firms may still have to make some tough decisions at the partnership level, says Jeffrey Lowe, managing partner of the D.C. office of legal consulting firm Major Lindsey & Africa. “Non-equity partners or equity partners who don’t have robust practices will be vulnerable in the years ahead. No one wants to let partners go, but as firms become more focused on the bottom line ... that’s probably the next course of action. It sounds bleak, but it’s a very different world out there these days.”

comments powered by Disqus