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240 general counsel rank the best national firms for corporate law: size matters

Corp. Bd. Mbr., Vol. 12, 2nd Quarter 2009 at 38, announces the results when 240 general counsel ranked “the best national law firms” for corporate legal work. As I studied the list, it seems clear that size of firm correlates to renown of firm for corporate and board-level legal advice.

Based on data about firm size from the NLJ 250 list, of the 25 US law firms with 900 lawyers or more, 11 made the list (44%). The average number of lawyers in the firms on the Corporate Board Member honor roll is 1,260 lawyers, the median is 974. A dozen firms on the NLJ 250 did not make it that had the median number or more. Conversely, 10 firms made the list despite not hitting the median, with Wachtell, Lipton at 202 lawyers being the firm most punching above its weight.

Bigger firms have more clients so more general counsel recognize their name. The firms on the honor roll have excellent talent and experience, absolutely, but size matters when a survey asks for votes. We also don’t know from the article anything about the 240 general counsel who responded. The larger their company, the more likely they have some experience with one or more of the massive corporate law firms. It isn’t even clear whether the 240 have recently and significantly used the firm or firms they selected.

Skadden Arps tops the honor roll, but I could not recall citing that huge and famous firm for anything to do with law department initiatives. Sad, but true: the only references here are to its enormity and profitability (See my post of Jan. 3, 2007: French office has high revenue per lawyer; Dec. 16, 2007: one of the highest grossing firms in the world; Feb. 20, 2008: breaches the $2 billion mark; Sept. 12, 2008: search for comments on ethical reputation; and Jan. 21, 2009: 3,797 LinkedIn hits for “Skadden”.).