Law Firm Profit Margin – Don’t Kid Yourself

A recent article by Bruce Stachenfeld over at Above the Law reminded me of my biggest pet peeve regarding law firm financial performance: misleading law firm profit margin figures. Bruce correctly points out that “profit margin is a dangerous statistic to use in comparing law firm profitability” because it “can be completely manipulated by two factors: [t]he titles that a firm gives to its lawyers; and [t]he leverage in the system.” Essentially, for a given number of associates, the more partners a firm has, the higher its profit margin (%) will be. The reason for this is that typically all partner compensation is included as profit. This is a mistake. Keep reading to learn why this is a problem and to learn how to calculate law firm profitability the right way.

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