Oh yeah, it’s time to get your prestige on.

The 2011 Vault prestige rankings went live this morning. It’s the time of the year when associates get to make fun of their friends, and partners get to brag to their peers. Law is a prestige-conscious field, and the Vault rankings will set the tone for prestige battles over the next year.

The top five remain the same, but the order has changed:

1. Wachtell
2. Cravath
3. Sullivan & Cromwell
4. Skadden
5. Davis Polk & Wardwell

Sullivan & Cromwell hops back over Skadden this year. I guess Skadden’s Sidebar Plus didn’t have quite enough prestige points.

Moving on, there is one firm that dropped out of the Vault top ten…

Membership in the Vault top-ten looks really good in a recruitment brochure. But one firm will have to update its materials:

6. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
7. Weil, Gotshal & Manges
8. Williams & Connolly
9. Cleary Gottlieb
10. Covington & Burling

Kirkland & Ellis fell out of the top-ten. Williams & Connolly, welcome to the party. Perhaps this will be good for the sales of Kim Eisler’s new book on the firm, Masters of the Game: Inside the World’s Most Powerful Law Firm.

Williams & Connolly may be the most powerful and the safest, but it’s not the most prestigious firm — yet. You can check out the full prestige rankings over here.

Vault rankings guru Brian Dalton noticed an interesting trend with this year’s list:

We may be seeing a “Obama Effect” at work. The only two non-NYC firms in the Top 10, Williams & Connolly and Covington & Burling, are DC-based and boast serious Administration connections. Williams & Connolly ranks at No. 8 (up from No. 14 last year) and Covington & Burling is No. 10. Obama himself is a client of Williams & Connolly. So is Hillary (dating back to Whitewater, through impeachment, and on to her book advances). Elena Kagan is a former W&C attorney. Gregory Craig, Obama’s former White House counsel, is a longtime W&C partner. Another one-time client of W&C is AG Eric Holder, himself a former partner at Covington & Burling.

There are other really interesting things in the rankings. For instance, Quinn Emanuel is all the way up to #19 (from #43 back in 2008). Quinn is a great case study because it shows that being open and transparent about your business doesn’t seem to hurt firms in the prestige rankings. Quinn has featured prominently in our pages, both for excellent news and for less excellent news, and this has coincided with a rise in prestige that Vault has called “meteoric.” People can snark on Quinn all they want but, CHECK YOU PRESTIGE, Quinn remains.

Check out the rankings and tell us what jumps out to you. We’ll have a lot more coverage and analysis of these rankings in the weeks ahead. For now, what are your initial impressions? Does the depressed job market make people less concerned with prestige? Or do (the few) people with multiple options still crave top-ten status?

Law Firm Rankings 2011: Vault Law 100 [Vault]
Vault’s Law Blog: Legal Careers and Industry News [Vault]

Earlier: Official New Vault Rankings


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