U.S. law firm revenue climbed 14% during the first nine months of 2021 over the same period last year, Wells Fargo Private Bank's Legal Specialty Group said. That is more than double the 5.7% increase reported in 2020 and the 6.3% uptick in 2019.
Revenue jumped by 17% on average among the 50 highest-grossing U.S. law firms as ranked by The American Lawyer, compared to a 10% increase for lower-ranked firms. More than 90% of the 120 law firms surveyed by the bank reported an increase in revenue.
Overall lawyer count in the participating law firms increased 0.6%, compared to a slight decrease in the first six months of 2021. Revenue per lawyer increased nearly 14%—up from 4% last year—boosted by strong increases in lawyer productivity (6%) and standard billing rates (6%).
Joe Mendola, senior director of sales for Wells Fargo Private Bank Legal Specialty Group said: “Firms continue to benefit from this ‘best of all worlds’ environment with almost everything going right: growth in demand, rates, and productivity – each up 6% or more, against generally easy comparisons a year ago.”
Mendola added transactional work was a major driver of increased revenues. He also noted that litigation, which had been difficult to see to conclusion in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic closed courts, and real estate deals had also been revived.