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International Market Also Shrank

Vivia Chen

November 23, 2010

Fotolia_21896105_XS Heads rolled again this year at the international offices of U.S. firms--but not quite as much as the year before. The National Law Journal reports that overall head count for lawyers dropped by 1.1 percent among the nation's 250 largest firms, and that "the international offices of some of the nation's top law firms took their share of the hit." Last year, reports the NLJ in a related article, "the head count fell by 4 percent."

Some of the biggest drops in head count occurred at major international firms: Baker & McKenzie lost 175 lawyers--though it's still home to some 3,774 lawyers. Another big loser was White & Case, which shed about 100 lawyers.

Many major American firms in London lost lawyers, reports NLJ:

Among all NLJ 250 firms, 79 maintained offices in London. A total of 4,710 attorneys from the 250 firms were based in London offices. Baker & McKenzie fell by 18 attorneys to 282 this year, while DLA Piper dipped by nine attorneys to 370. Mayer Brown had 261 attorneys in London this year, compared with 297 in 2009. White & Case declined to 248 from 266 attorneys.

Reed Smith had 229 attorneys this year, compared with 248 last year. Sidley Austin reported 112, compared with 124 last year. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom dropped to 105 attorneys from 111 in 2009, and Shearman & Sterling's London office fell by three attorneys to 99.

Latham & Watkins's London office managed to go against this downward trend; it went from 144 lawyers last year to 170 lawyers, says the NLJ. Moreover, Jones Day gained six lawyers (the London office now has 187).

But even if London recovers fully, don't expect firms to increase head count dramatically through organic growth, says Joseph Altonji, a consultant with Hildebrandt Baker Robbins, to the NLJ. The big increases will probably depend on transatlantic mergers, he says.

The big international action will be--you guessed it--outsourcing, says Altonji.


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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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