The province’s largest law firms have added more local lawyers to their rosters in 2019, with the average number of lawyers at the top 20 B.C. law firms surpassing the previous 2015 high.
The average lawyer head count at the top law firms on Business in Vancouver’s Biggest Law Firms in Metro Vancouver list (page 14) grew 2.9% to 79.3 in 2019 from 77.1 in 2015. However, this minor growth disguises the industry’s volatility. In 2016 the average number of lawyers fell 3.8% to 74.2.
The median number of lawyers at the top 20 firms reported a steeper decline: 7.2% to 71 local lawyers in 2016 from 76.5 in 2015.
While it took four years for the average to rebound, the median recovered faster. After a year of stagnation the median number of lawyers grew 9.9% in 2018 to 78, surpassing the 2015 average. This suggests that smaller companies lower on the list grew at a greater and faster rate than their larger counterparts higher on the list.
This pattern is also evident among the firms in the top five, where the growth in the number of lawyers by No. 3 Lawson Lundell LLP and No. 5 Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP exceeded that of the law firms in first and second place. Lawson Lundell grew 22.7% from 2015 to 2019, while No. 1-ranked Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP grew only 2.8% and No. 2 Borden Ladner Gervais LLP declined 3.1% during.
However, over the past year the average number of lawyers has begun to catch up to the median, meaning that larger firms are beginning to grow at a faster rate than the smaller ones.
Since the 2016 slump, when the average and median number of lawyers working at B.C.’s largest firms were at their five-year low, the province’s top 20 firms have generally enjoyed continued growth.
Only four companies posted declines, the largest of which was No. 10-ranked DLA Piper (Canada) LLP, which suffered a 15.8% decline in lawyer head count over the past year to 80 in 2019 from 95 in 2018.
No. 20-ranked Bennett Jones LLP had the largest one-year growth on the list, increasing its lawyer head count by 22.9% to 43 in 2019 from 35 in 2018. •