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Washington Wrap: Tracking the Haves and Have-Nots Among DC Firms

Ryan Lovelace LAW.COM

In the coming week we’ll be continuing to analyze Am Law 100 and 200 financial results in the D.C. market and beyond. But it’s not too early to note that while some of Washington’s largest law firms posted record revenues in 2018, some of their competitors faced stiffer headwinds.

Bottom line: Not everyone is enjoying the broader industry trend of rising demand, growing revenue and increasing profits.

Among early reports, Covington & Burling and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr stand out for posting record high revenues in 2018. Wilmer ticked up to $1.149 billion in gross revenue, while Covington cracked the $1 billion threshold for the first time.

Elsewhere around town and throughout the mid-Atlantic, however, the picture is somewhat less rosy.

The majority of D.C. firms analyzed by Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group—62 percent—recorded decreasing demand in 2018, while 61 percent of the total 191 firms Citi surveyed nationwide saw demand increase. Wells Fargo’s law firm and lending advisory unit reported similar results: demand dropped by 2.7 percent in the mid-Atlantic, but rose by 2.3 percent across all 150 firms it reviewed nationwide.

Such results have prompted rumblings about the strength of the D.C. market and questions about how firms would survive an economic downturn amid divided government. But others are more optimistic.

Jeffrey Lowe, Major, Lindsey & Africa’s managing partner in D.C., said 2018 was a pretty strong year for firms nationwide. He said he thinks firms “are still very bullish about the market, knowing that it’s full steam ahead until it crashes.”

“Since the Trump administration began, there’s a continued focus on D.C. as a power center and I think that’s a good thing for people in the D.C. market,” Lowe said.

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