15 Largest Law Firms in the World by Headcount

In this article, we will be taking a look at the 15 largest law firms in the world by headcount. To skip our detailed analysis, you can go directly to see the 5 largest law firms in the world by headcount.

If you have seen Suits or any of the other myriad legal shows, law, and law offices in particular, will hold a mythical status in your mind. I know when I was thinking about future career opportunities, legal shows were one of the reasons I was so attracted to law. However, the reality is quite different. Law is less about passionate thumping of documents on the desk of your opponent or shouting “Goddamn” at every single opportunity. It is more about poring through endless precedent and relevant case law to support your argument and a lot of paperwork. It is memorizing all kinds of laws and while criminal law may be appetizing and interesting, most other types of law really aren’t, especially corporate law.

Largest Law Firms in the World by Headcount

Largest Law Firms in the World by Headcount

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There are several different types of lawyers such outside of just criminal lawyers who prosecute or defend people accused of crimes. Tax lawyers represent their clients in matters of taxation and have both individuals and companies as clients. On the other hand, intellectual property lawyers specialize in trademark and patent laws for different kinds of intellectual property which can include movies, inventions, films or other kinds of productions. Environmental lawyers meanwhile focus on the ever-increasing rules and regulations pertaining to the environment as we continue to realize the harsh and significant global impacts of climate change. Security lawyers deal with issues pertaining to stock purchases and sales, an area with incredibly complex law and so the importance of having a lawyers cannot be understated especially if you are engaged in transactions of a really high value.

Depending on the jurisdiction in which the law firm operates, there are several types of law firms, which include general partnership, sole proprietorship, limited liability company, limited liability partnership, professional association and even a professional corporation. In some countries, such as the United States, only lawyers are allowed to have any sort of an ownership interest or be managers of law firms. Further, unlike most corporations, law firms are not allowed to offer shares through an initial public offering, which is why you will not see any listed law firm.

In addition to television and cinema making law seem incredibly appealing, it is also true that if you’re really good at being a lawyer, you can progress quickly and earn handsome salaries which can be a major incentive to many. However, lawyers also tend to work really long hours in most practices, especially in large firms where according to Indeed, lawyers work an average of 66 hours per week which comes to 11 hours a day, 6 days a week. Meanwhile, lawyers in small and medium-sized firms work less (and earn less too) at 42-54 hours per week on average. Lawyers working for government agencies meanwhile work 40 hours a week.

The reasons lawyers work so much, or overwork to be more accurate, is because they’re required to bill a certain number of hours and the higher the number of hours billed to clients, the higher the earning of lawyers and the fatter the checks of the partners. In addition, being a lawyer is a very client-facing job where you have consistent meetings with clients and of course with fellow lawyers and managers in the firm. The number of meetings add up to additional hours worked per week and tight deadlines or urgent activities can sometimes even result in all-nighters. Also, many tasks including travel and administrative tasks are not billable and hence add to the overall workload of a lawyer. As I said, it is interesting but not quite as dramatic as you’ll see in movies or John Grisham novels.

There are a lot of lawyers in the world, numbering in millions. In the United States alone, there are well over a million lawyers and often supply outstrips demand which means that most newly graduated lawyers have to struggle to get good jobs or start their own practice with few clients and even fewer well-paying clients. This is why despite all of the glamor and money associated with the profession, only a select few are able to enjoy these benefits and for the rest, it is a daily grind. The situation is even worse in the public system, whether you’re a public prosecutor or defender, where the pay isn’t much at all and there is way too much work for any person to be able to work with even if working 60 to 70 hours a week. Many public defenders handle 200 to 300 cases at the same time and in major jurisdictions, handle even more cases. This is a major issue because lawyers are the normal public’s way to be able to get fair representation and it is obvious that no matter how well-meaning the defender is, they can’t give your case the time and attention it deserves. In the United States, this has been the case since the 1980s and has continued to be underfunded and understaffed ever since. There is little chance of attracting talent to a career where they’ll always be overworked and underpaid.

Despite the afore-mentioned issues, the law firm industry is continuing to expand rapidly and according to Grand View Research, the global legal services market was approaching a trillion dollars, clocking in at $908 billion in 2021 and is expected to continue to grow at a CAGR of 5.3% which means it will breach the trillion-dollar mark in a couple of years. The usage of artificial intelligence in the legal industry has allowed it grow rapidly, creating efficiencies which have allowed the industry to maximize revenues and reduce costs and time. Corporate lawyers make up the biggest segment of the legal industry, followed by litigation, then labor / employment, bankruptcy and finally taxation. The use of legal libraries has also increased which allows lawyers to access more resources and make better, well researched decisions. Large firms account for 36% of the total global legal industry share due to the diversified services they provide in various segments.

We determined the 15 largest law firms in the world by headcount. You won’t be surprised to learn that most of these firms are located either in China or the United States where the high population means there is a much higher demand for lawyers. These 15 firms have a combined headcount of around 70,000. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the law firms with the highest headcount, starting with number 15:

15. Kirkland & Ellis

Total headcount in 2021: 2,725

Kirkland & Ellis is one of the most prestigious law firms in the United States, with several attorneys going on to serve as federal judges or officials with infamous United States Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh having also worked in Kirkland & Ellis.

14. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Total headcount in 2021: 2,800

One of the biggest law firms in the United Kingdom, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has more than 28 offices and around 427 partners. The company operates in several jurisdictions across many continents such including Asia, Europe and North America.

13. Latham and Watkins

Total headcount in 2021: 2,858

Latham and Watkins is an American company headquartered in California. It is one of the most profitable law firms in the world in addition to being one of the largest law firms in the world by headcount, recording revenue per partner in excess of $4.5 million.

12. Beijing DHH Law Firm

Total headcount in 2021: 3,010

Beijing DHH Law Firm provides services in over a dozen sectors including finance, secutiries, corporate, energy and infrastructure and overseas businesses among others. DHH also has more than 10 branches overseas.

11. Norton Rose Fullbright

Total headcount in 2021: 3,178

Norton Rose Fullbright is a British American law firm which has lawyers in six continents.

10. Eversheds Sutherland

Total headcount in 2021: 3,385

Created in 2017 after the merger of Eversheds LLP and Sutherlands Asbill & Brennan LLP, the company currently has close to 3,400 lawyers and more than 4,000 employees overall/

9. Allbright

Total headcount in 2021: 3,418

Allbright is a Chinese legal firm which has its headquarters in Shanghai. It engages in various segments including intellectual property, dispute resolution, securities and capital markets and estate & construction among others.

8. King & Wood Mallesons

Total headcount in 2021: 3,574

One of the largest firms in Asia, King & Wood Mallesons has 30 offices across North America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Kings & Wood Mallesons operates a community impact practice and more than 91% of the Australian lawyers in the firm contributed by participating in pro bono work, with the combined total being over 54,000 hours in 2021. It also partners with Youth Law Australia, which provides free legal services to young people in Australia. Among the major companies it represents includes Microsoft Corporation (NYSE:MSFT), which the firm advised in China.

7. DeHeng Law Offices

Total headcount in 2021: 3,689

One of the largest law firms in the world by headcount, DeHeng Law Offices is based in Beijing and currently has 27 offices in China, while it also has overseas offices in Brussels, Dubai, Nur-Sultan, New York City and Brussels. The law firm was founded 29 years ago in 1993.

6. CMS

Total headcount in 2021: 3,848

CMS is the biggest law firm in Germany and provides legal services in addition to tax advisory services. CMS itself consists of around 18 independent law firms with more than 80 offices. The company was formed through six European law firms combining in 1999.

 

Click to continue reading and see the 5 largest law firms in the world by headcount.

 

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Disclosure: None. 15 largest law firms in the world by headcount is originally published at Insider Monkey.

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