Posts Tagged ‘Sidley Austin’

Take a look at this excerpt below from Law.Com. The full list is of the world’s top 100 law firms by revenue.

The top 10 firms below alone bring in over $20 Billion dollars in revenue, with about 25,000 lawyers.  Although clearly not an internally equitable spread, that’s about $800,000 in revenue per lawyer.

2008 Rank by Revenue Firm Gross Revenue, Most Recent Fiscal Year
1 Clifford Chance International (U.K.) $2,660,500,000
2 Linklaters International (U.K.) $2,588,500,000
3 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer International (U.K.) $2,358,500,000
4 Baker & McKenzie International (U.S.) $2,188,000,000
5 Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom National (U.S.) $2,170,000,000
6 Allen & Overy International (U.K.) $2,034,000,000
7 Latham & Watkins National (U.S.) $2,005,500,000
8 Jones Day National (U.S.) $1,441,000,000
9 Sidley Austin National (U.S.) $1,386,000,000
10 White & Case International (U.S.) $1,373,000,000

Not bad for “pushing paper” as my former client at the tabloids used to accuse us of!

What is glaring is that fact that these top ten firms are exclusively American and UK firms. Even more stupefying is that almost all the top 100 law firms come from the UK and USA, some from Canada and Australia. As these firms grow, the practice of law in English, as in business, will only increase exponentially.

Recently it has become trendy to talk about the demise of law firms and big law. It may happen to a few big firms, as it is happening to a few “ancient” businesses like General Motors. But the legal services market is essentially opportunistic. Lawyers are valuable whether the client is going up or down – we just don’t bet against them. Some of the largest USA/UK firms in the world were built on the founder’s bankruptcy practices dealing with the volatility of the 1850s- 1920s. No, I don’t expect big law to disappear, except maybe from the reach of the mass of lawyers graduating every year.

Ok, back to the English only point: will this mean that all laws in major economies (OECD and BRIC) will be translated into English? If that happens, what will become of local laws in Spanish, Urdu, Russian or Chinese? I don’t expect that local laws in native languages will disappear – certainly not from the courts.   But I can see how the culture of law will also be changed by the use of English only.

Maybe the proliferation of English language only laws will affect only the financial elites like multi-nationals and banks. Will this in turn create an exclusive cadre of global lawyers that can literally practice without borders – or has that already happened?

What do you think?


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