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A survey of the nation’s top 250 law firms shows they collectively shed 5,259 lawyers in the past year, a drop of 4 percent.

The drop is the largest since the National Law Journal started collecting the information in 1978. The survey has recorded only two other declines—a drop of less than 1 percent in 1993, and a 1 percent drop in 1992, according to a National Law Journal story on the results.

The number of associates at the large firms dropped by 8.7 percent, while the number of partners increased by slightly less than 1 percent, the story says. The number of lawyers in the “other” category, including of counsel and staff lawyers, dropped by 8.9 percent.

The numbers indicate a law firm strategy of saving partners, according to law firm consultant Ward Bower of Altman Weil. “The cuts made were done primarily to preserve workloads for partners," he told the National Law Journal. "It suggests that work done by partners is work that associates could do.”

The law firm with the largest percentage reduction in lawyers was Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. It lost 168 lawyers, a decline of 26.4 percent, according to the article. The firm that lost the most lawyers in raw numbers was Latham & Watkins. It shrunk by 444 lawyers, a decline of 19.1 percent.

The largest law firm, according to the survey, is Baker & McKenzie, with 3,949 lawyers.


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