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2 Metrics Showing Litigation Shifting to Midsize Law Firms

Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D.
By: Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D.

Economics, Trial Consulting, Litigation Management, Leadership, Marketing, Midsize Law Firms

rise midsize law firms litigation bigby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Last month I published a four-part series about the rising influence of midsize law firms in big-ticket litigation. Major news outlets are reporting on the trend, and we're seeing it play out at A2L. However, new and interesting data about case filings and trials shows just how surprisingly far along midsized law firms are in capturing a large share of the litigation market.

The four articles listed below made up our four-part midsize law firm series last month. In addition to A2L's valuable tips for trying big cases on a midsized budget, the key takeaway was that over the last three years, midsized law firms have doubled the amount of high-stakes litigation they are being hired to run. The articles below go into more detail and offer useful tips for law firms of any size heading to trial.

I write for another blog geared toward litigation support salespeople and e-discovery salespeople. Using LawProspector as a litigation research tool, I am able to see some very clear trends unfolding related to new cases and trials. I discussed these trends in two recent articles.

In an article that analyzed which law firm offices are busy, I focused my study on new case filings over the past 6 months or so. The trends revealed by the data were surprising to me since I've spent the last 20 years watching the top 50 law firms dominate the litigation dockets. Ranked according to the number of cases attorneys were newly involved with (both plaintiff and defense side), these law firm offices listed below are the busiest when it comes to federal cases:

10. Quinn Emanuel's California offices.
9. Wilson Elser's offices in the west, east and south.
8. Bradley Arant's Charlotte and Alabama offices.
7. Alston & Bird's DC, and Atlanta offices.
6. DLA Piper's offices in DC, New York and California.
5. Nelson Mullins' North Carolina offices.
4. Akerman Senterfitt's various Florida offices.
3. Snell & Wilmer's Phoenix and Las Vegas offices.
2. Barnes & Thornburg's Indianapolis office.
1. Baker Donelson's Tennessee offices have more new matters than any other firm in the top 200 law firms.

What I find amazing about this list is how law firms in the 300-750 lawyer range, roughly the top 50-150 law firms ranked by size, are dominating the list. This is the first time I've seen this pattern in my three decades in the litigation support industry.

To confirm whether this data might be a fluke of some sort, I followed up with a second article and a review of trials scheduled over the next year. Sure enough, that same midsize law firm dominance was showing up again.

top 15 litigation law firms to sell to asap

This table lists the top 15 law firms ranked by the number of federal trials their attorneys have scheduled over the next year. After some analysis, the data reveals something remarkable: roughly 60 percent of the federal trials scheduled in the next year are being handled by a midsize law firm.

Further, only three of 15 law firms on this list have more than 1,000 lawyers (roughly the top 25 law firms). Those top 25 law firms collectively have about 45,000 lawyers, and law firms ranked 50-150 by size also have about 45,000 lawyers in total. However, 80 percent of the litigation is going to the second group. This is a tectonic shift compared to the data only a few years ago.

With changes of this magnitude occurring in the litigation industry, we all need to be paying attention. Large law firms need to work on the economics of their firms if they wish to (re)capture the everyday litigation market. Midsize law firms need to learn the techniques used by large law firms to be successful in big litigation. Litigation support firms have to adjust to a whole new audience eager to learn what works best. 

Other articles on our site related to the new normal of the legal industry, the litigation market outlook and the rise of midsize law firms in high-stakes litigation include:

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