The results of this year's survey of the 50 biggest law firms in California seem to reflect a steadier economy, with little change in size from 2012. Hiring was slightly down, with firms averaging 31 new hires in the Golden State compared to last year's 35. The average number of partners held steady, with no change in the percentage of minority partners and a slight uptick in women partners. Overall, the ranked firms experienced growth of 0.1 percent in California.
The four firms at the top of the list stayed the same as last year, with Latham & Watkins remaining number 1 but with a shift in the order below: For the first time in the California 50's history, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith jumped into second place, bumping Morrison & Foerster down to number 3. Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton slipped from 3 to 4.
New to the 2013 list are Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton; Nossaman; Cox, Castle & Nicholson; and Downey Brand. They replaced Buchalter Nemer; Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell; Foley & Lardner; and McDermott Will & Emery, which ranked 35th last year but did not respond to our questionnaire.
San Diego-based Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch made the largest leap - vaulting eleven spots from 47 to 38. The firm's growth is concentrated in California, where it has three offices. Managing partner Thomas W. Turner Jr. says Procopio has "put a lot of focus on intellectual property and IP litigation this year." When we surveyed the firm in 2012, it had no full-time lawyers in Silicon Valley, and as of July it had nine.
Despite apparent economic stability in the industry, things still look somewhat bleak for young lawyers at big firms. There was a drop in the ratio of associates to partners in the state, and nationwide the California 50 firms hired 8.6 percent fewer summer associates than last year. Lyndon J. Parker, managing director at the legal placement firm Mestel & Company, thinks this may indicate a new normal. "I expect these drops are going to continue for some time," he says. "There will be great pressure on the law schools to figure out how to place their graduates. I, personally, would not want to be coming out of law school right now." - Karmah Elmusa
For more information on California 50 firms, including new hires, part-time lawyers, and women and minority partners, see The Breakdown.