Asia Pac 150: Growth at independent firms outstrips international rivals

The growth of international firms in Asia Pacific stalled in 2013, while the top 100 independent firms in the region by 12 per cent, research for The Lawyer Asia Pacific 150 2014 revealed.

An insight into the largest firms in the region can be found in The Lawyer Asia Pacific 150 published today (30 June).

Compared to the Asia Pacific-headquartered firms, the largest 50 international firms in the region only saw a 4 per cent rise in lawyer headcount from 9,220 to 9,584.

The Top 100 independent firms, meanwhile, housed 37,575 lawyers at the end of 2013, an increase of 12.2 per cent from 33,495. Of the total 100, around 70 had grown lawyer headcount.

Growth in the international market has largely been driven by the US firms, while their London-counterparts saw headcount drop.

Ashurst reduced headcount by 78 from 906 to 78, Herbert Smith Freehills by 144 from 1,130 to 986 and Norton Rose Fulbright by 67 from 729 to 662.

Ropes & Gray, meanwhile, increased headcount by 20 from 44 to 64 and Kirkland & Ellis from 54 to 68.

There are, of course, exceptions to the trend. Magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer broke the mould with a 51.5 per cent rise in lawyer numbers from 165 to 250 – an increase of 85.

Chinese firms dominated the Top 100 independent firm list. All but two of the 35 included in the list have seen an increase in lawyer headcount in 2013 compared to the previous year.

Beijing-based Global Law Office is one of the fastest-growing firms in 2013. The firm’s lawyer headcount grew by 50 per cent from 130 in 2012 to 195 last year.

Beijing-headquartered Dacheng is the largest firm in the Asia Pacific, with 3,257 lawyers in 50 offices globally. That represents a 49 per cent increase on 2012 when the firm was when the firm had 2,190.

The Lawyer Asia Pacific 150 ranks of the largest law firms by lawyer number across Asia Pacific. It also provides a comprehensive overview of key developments and events in the dynamic legal market.

For more on the changing nature of the Asia Pacific legal market read our feature: Asia Pacific 150 2014: Year of the indie