Barnes & Thornburg enters top 100 on list of largest law firms

A spate of office openings and an acquisition have helped catapult Barnes & Thornburg LLP into the upper echelon of the nation’s largest law firms, at a time when the slumbering economy has forced most other big firms to cut staff.

The Indianapolis-based law firm ranked 87th in The National Law Journal’s most recent annual listing of the nation’s 250 largest firms, marking its highest-ever ranking.

Barnes & Thornburg moved up from its 109th-place ranking in 2008, by increasing its lawyer numbers 8 percent, to 483, in offices in seven states and Washington, D.C. The firm has 233 lawyers in Indianapolis and is the second largest in the city, according to the most recent IBJ statistics. 

“It’s an exciting time for Barnes & Thornburg,” Managing Partner Alan Levin said in a prepared statement. “The firm’s financial strength and recent growth certainly run counter to the rest of the industry and that creates a significant opportunity for the firm and its expanding client base.”
Barnes & Thornburg grew its roster of attorneys by acquiring Minneapolis-based Parsinen Law Firm PA, which added 22 lawyers, and by opening offices in Columbus, Ohio; Wilmington, Del.; and Atlanta. Together, the three account for five lawyers. The firm also hired several veteran lawyers and new associates.

Altogether, Barnes & Thornburg added 69 lawyers the past year. But the number falls to 37, the figure cited by NLJ, when considering normal attrition.

Its growth far outpaced the overall performance of the nation’s biggest law firms, which collectively reduced their headcounts by roughly 4 percent so far this year, according to the New York-based trade publication. 

That’s in stark contrast to average annual growth of nearly 4 percent the past 20 years, NLJ said. So, the decline this year, coupled with the usual growth rate, roughly equates to the loss of 10,000 lawyer jobs, the publication estimated.

“Obviously, the numbers collected this year show a profession in turmoil,” NLJ Editor David Brown said upon releasing the rankings this week. “Perhaps it’s not surprising, but this year’s stats are certainly unprecedented.”

Another locally based firm added lawyers as well. Baker & Daniels LLP increased its number of attorneys from 273 to 286 from the previous year but still fell in the rankings, from 138th to 149th.

Ice Miller LLP, conversely, lost 16 lawyers and fell three notches, to 169th, according to the rankings.

A handful of regional and national firms that have a presence in Indianapolis also made the top 250 list. San Francisco-based Littler Mendelson ranked 45th; Greenville, S.C.-based Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC, 100th; Cincinnati-based Frost Brown Todd LLC, 113th; and Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, 139th.

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