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Just over two years ago, I created the inaugural Australian Law Firm Rankings, which worked on the basic assumption that the bigger and the more notable a law firm is, the more people would be wanting to talk about it. And what better way to measure this than to ask Google.

Here are the rankings updated, for 2011.

There have been some slight changes in methodology, in an attempt to focus the search results down to the pages that truly matter. Starting with what we used for the 2009 rankings:

"law firm name" law

this has been supplemented by search terms that remove pages from the law firm’s own web site and from some particular web-based directories (the list of which is arbitrary and could well be improved). For example:

"Allens Arthur Robinson" law

For law firms with an ampersand or a plus sign in their name, additional search terms were inserted to allow for variations in spelling, like so:

("Gilbert + Tobin" OR "Gilbert and Tobin" OR "Gilbert & Tobin" OR "Gilbert Tobin") law

Now, without further ado:

Law Firm  Pages  Partners1 ’09 
1 Clayton Utz 78,900 201 6 Up
2 DLA Phillips Fox 72,400 149 10 Up
3 Minter Ellison 66,100 291 4 Up
4 Blake Dawson 57,400 175 8 Up
5 Freehills 48,500 202 1 Down
6 Mallesons Stephen Jaques 46,600 186 2 Down
7 Allens Arthur Robinson 37,900 177 3 Down
8 Corrs Chambers Westgarth 25,700 108 9 Up
9 Maddocks 23,500 53 12 Up
10 Baker & McKenzie 21,200 90 13 Up
11 Norton Rose2 19,800 146 5 Down
12 Middletons 18,900 67 17 Up
13 Sparke Helmore 18,500 49 16 Up
14 Cooper Grace Ward 16,000 24
15 Holding Redlich 15,600 55 14 Down
16 Henry Davis York 10,100 52 22 Up
17 Gilbert + Tobin 9,470 55 15 Down
18 Piper Alderman 9,170 57 21 Up
19 Hunt & Hunt 7,130 55 7 Down
20 Arnold Bloch Leibler 6,990 29 20
21 McCullough Robertson 6,490 46 19 Down
22 HWL Ebsworth 5,320 120 27 Up
23 Kennedy Strang3 4,970 72 31 Up
24 Griffith Hack 4,890 30
25 Gadens 4,470 125 11 Down
26 TressCox 4,270 35 23 Down
27 Davies Collison Cave 2,990 36 24 Down
28 Hall & Wilcox 1,780 30 28
29 Thomsons Lawyers4 1,250 47 30 Up
30 Lander & Rogers 815 47 26 Down
31 Moray & Agnew 596 59 29 Down
32 Macpherson+Kelley 340 51
33 Colin Biggers & Paisley 324 29

1 The number of partners is the projected figure for 2 January 2011, as reported by the Australian Financial Review on 10 December 2010, page 47.
2 Norton Rose merged with Deacons, which was #5 in the 2009 rankings.
3 Kennedy Strang is a group of law firms (Kemp Strang, Russell Kennedy, Thynne & Macartney, Lynch Meyer). The reported page count is the total count for these law firms.
4 Thomsons Lawyers was called Thomson Playford Cutlers at the time of the 2009 rankings.

To get a feel for the “noise” in the page count, that is, the number of pages in the result set that do not actually refer to the law firm in question, I manually examined the top 30 search results for each law firm. For only three firms was 1 out of the 30 pages identified as spurious; the other law firms had no spurious results. This, of course, doesn’t mean the signal-to-noise ratio remains constant as one progresses towards the tail end of the search results; Google’s algorithms, by now, are probably quite good at getting the more relevant pages to appear in earlier search results.

Mandatory reading (for those of you who have read this far and have taken everything seriously): xkcd on using Google to measure things

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Berkoff v Burchill [1996] 4 All ER 1008 at 1019 per Millett LJ:

It is a common experience that ugly people have satisfactory social lives – Boris Karloff is not known to have been a recluse – and it is a popular belief for the truth of which I am unable to vouch that ugly men are particularly attractive to women.

Trivia: Lord Millett has a Chinese name, 苗禮治 (miu4 lai5 ci4), presumably because he is now sitting on the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong.


'If you like your sex life, don't stick a firecracker up your arse' -- David Rolph's media law life lesson #7


The International Free and Open Source Software Law Review – about time, although, of course, it’s more for lawyers than FOSS enthusiasts.

18 Oct 2009 | No comments

Ever wondered what that piece of paper is worth? The University of Sydney Graduate Destinations Report is compiled from surveys of graduates four to six months after they complete their final year of study, and it provides an overview of employment opportunities, starting salaries and job satisfaction, amongst other things. I have some beef with the way the results are collated (the employer table is a downright mess, and what information is provided differs between faculties) but I’ll take the stats as generally representative of the truth.

The law is, I suppose, perceived as a veritable gold mine and thus a highly valuable degree, and with an average graduate salary of over $79,000, one can understand why. But the survey breaks it down further: undergraduates, on average, end up with over $51,000 while postgraduates get over $98,000. By comparison, those graduating from undergraduate dentistry earn, on average, over $94,000 and work fewer hours (34 hrs/wk as opposed to 36 hrs/wk). What’s more, dentists are more happy with their job (96% as opposed to 82%). Who would’ve thought? (And 40% of law students suffer depression at some stage. So, if you’re in high school right now and you think law is all glitz and glamour, take another hard look, although it’s still a great degree.) As for finding a job, 14% of law graduates weren’t employed at the time of the survey, but it’s not entirely clear how many of these were studying further or simply not looking for a job; the somewhat high figure could also be explained by the fact that the survey would’ve been conducted at the height of the financial crisis.

Of course, there’s more to life than what you get paid, but I’ve summarised graduate gross salary by faculty, and then, where possible, I’ve calculated average hourly rate. The latter table is useful, because it shows that while starting salaries can differ quite markedly between faculties, this difference can be explained, at least in part, by under-employment.

Summary of graduate gross salary by faculty

Faculty Undergrad Honours 1 Postgrad Overall
Agriculture $41,949 $49,954 $43,569
Architecture $33,885 $46,912 $59,552 $46,968
Arts $34,316 $46,189 $36,605
Dentistry $94,461 $100,875 $123,886 $102,315
Economics $39,572 $46,373 $52,494 $46,793
Education $44,131 $55,386 $49,205
Engineering $51,384 $69,075 $53,206
Health Sciences $41,514 $61,195 $49,662
Law $51,507 $98,927 $79,329
Medicine $54,271 $77,719 $68,300
Music $29,965 $29,382 $37,659 $32,126
Nursing $40,926 $56,856 $46,167
Pharmacy $34,542 $58,540 $40,424
Science $24,801 $48,878 $34,738
Vet Sciences $39,146 $38,690 $92,750 $48,036
Visual Arts $18,307 $29,330 $23,197

1 Data not provided for all faculties (but a blank does not mean that honours cannot be undertaken in that faculty).

Graduate Gross Hourly Rate by Faculty

Faculty Undergrad Honours Postgrad Overall
Agriculture $21.80 $25.28 $22.65
Architecture (average hours worked not provided)
Arts $22.76 $26.13 $23.46
Dentistry $53.43 $48.50 $61.09 $54.66
Economics (average hours worked not provided)
Education $24.96 $29.59 $26.28
Engineering $25.34 $34.96 $26.93
Health Sciences $22.81 $32.69 $27.29
Law $27.51 $45.30 $37.21
Medicine (average hours worked not provided)
Music $26.19 $23.54 $25.86 $25.74
Nursing $21.27 $28.77 $24.00
Pharmacy $17.48 $31.27 $21.01
Science $21.68 $26.86 $24.74
Vet Sciences $17.51 $18.15 $44.59 $22.53
Visual Arts $14.67 $20.89 $18.59

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The ads at the uni bus stop are hard to miss: UNSW now offers Juris Doctor for graduates instead of LLB. What’s the difference? From what I can see, postgraduates will be taught separately from undergraduates, JD students can take Masters-level courses as electives, and some of the courses might be taught at their new city campus. Intriguing.

Speaking of which, I only just found out that UNSW had opened a city campus on O’Connell Street, right in the heart of the financial and legal district in Sydney. If you look at the photos, a Sydney Uni law graduate intimately familiar with the bowels of the old law school might be left just somewhat envious. Sydney Uni had better do something soon, because UNSW has just taken away a point of competitive advantage, our city location.

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Dan and I, back in third year, wrote up our Australian constitutional law case summaries as Wikipedia articles as we were studying them: click here for a list of case summaries. (We didn’t quite finish though: the red links link to pages that don’t exist.)

01 Sep 2009 | No comments

“I now come to the Galapagos Islands Division of the law of torts, namely, defamation… The giant turtles of defamation have evolved their own dialect, arcane customs and overly subtle distinctions.” — Justice Ipp, “Themes In The Law Of Torts” (Speech, 16 March 2007)

26 Aug 2009 | 1 comment

Last year, the Sydney Law Revue, I thought, deserved nothing but vitriol (to the dismay of one of the revue directors I happened to chance upon at a clerkship function last year). This year, however, the revue was much better and well deserving of praise: who could forget the singing Taliban or the all-singing, all-dancing jury trial? The nudity was much abbreviated, however, and most of the singers are still impossible to understand. And that disability skit: what were they thinking (given that Ron McCallum would have had to sit through that)? Anyway, a good performance with lots of talent. Well done.

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Law puzzlers

Here’s today’s light entertainment, courtesy of David Su, and extracted from the latest edition of The Gavel.

Identify the six hidden legal terms:

Law puzzlers

Answers (highlight the rest of this line to see): affidavit, patent, brief, mens rea, suit, plaintiff

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